Independent mayoral candidate Lori Hopkins-Cavanagh is suggesting that several hot-button issues can be addressed if the obtains a parcel of land currently occupied by subsidized housing.
In a letter to the academy’s superintendent, Rear Admiral Sandra L. Stosz, Hopkins-Cavanagh said such an action will result in the preservation of , reconnection of New London neighborhoods, and demolition of the high-rise Thames River Apartments. Hopkins-Cavanagh said this will result in safer neighborhoods and allow the academy to expand its campus, as it is hoping to do by purchasing a portion of Riverside Park from the city. This item will go to a referendum vote in the November election.
“Riverside Park is more valuable as open space to enhance the beauty of the academy and welcome visitors for tailgate parties and events. The park does not need to be behind your gates to benefit the Coast Guard,” said Hopkins-Cavanagh in her letter to Stolsz. “It does need to be beautified by the city and safe for everyone to enjoy.”
Hopkins-Cavanagh says about 24 acres of contiguous land across from the park’s entrance is owned by the city or the . She said the high-rises are located on 15 acres of the land and that the academy could locate a sports complex, diversity center, and recruitment center on the site after the apartments are demolished. She said this would increase the academy’s visibility, create jobs and an aesthetically pleasing entryway into the city, lower crime rates, increase property values, revitalize the Hodges Square neighborhood, and help to create a connection between downtown New London and the northern neighborhoods.
"The proposal will be a stabilizing factor, especially if the USCG drives/marches through the park daily to access the sport/diversity/recruitment development," Hopkins-Cavanagh said in an e-mail. "However, there are many variations that can be considered."
New London Housing Authority executive director Sue Shontell said at a that the department is applying for a Department of Housing and Urban Development grant to plan the overhaul of the high-rises. Shontell said two of the towers would be removed, with a third retained for social services, while a public housing neighborhood would be created nearby with amenities such as walking paths and a transportation hub. Hopkins-Cavanagh said she disagrees with the plan, favoring relocating residents of the high-rises to existing subsidized housing.
“Ms. Shontell’s plan is the wrong plan for East New London and the academy. Your neighborhood will deteriorate even more and the academy will be located in a sea of subsidized apartments with transient renters,” she wrote in her letter to Stolsz. “Your neighborhood will become increasingly less safe for cadets and Coast Guard personnel. Drug activity and violent crime is already a problem and it will only get worse.”
Hopkins-Cavanagh said the idea would not be as simple as the sale of a portion of Riverside Park, but would create more advantages for the academy and city. She said a 1998 feasibility study determined that the high-rise property was not large enough to build a sports complex or shopping mall, but that it did not take into account contiguous parcels of land or the academy as a potential developer.