The North End Housing Initiative:

Chapter 4:January-December 2004

Pam King, representing the Richman Group, met with NEHI, the Housing Committee for the North End Action Team (NEAT) on January 7th, 2004. She is a small woman, quite tough and used to getting her own way, all business. At the same time she has a talent for giving the appearance of a friendly willingness to work with others even while in the process of presenting an inflexible agenda certain to offend them.

Most of the members of NEHI were present at this meeting, including Lydia Brewster, Lois Santiago and myself(NEAT), Calvin Price(Liberty Commons), Krishna Winston(Wesleyan), Carl Rodenhizer(Connection, Nancy Meyers and Joyce Yarrow(Habitat), Michael Taylor(Nehemiah House) and Lucy McMillan(Alderhouse).

Pam King's dictat in brief : As stated in the previous chapter, Pa, King let NEHI know that Richman could not work with the structure of NEHI as then conceived. It demanded 'more concrete definition'. Otherwise it would not know 'what's expected of it.' She then went on to say that Richman insisted on total control of the project; indeed, it was incapable of working any other way, given its role as the 'managing entity' in the re-creation of the North End district.

She pointed out that current market rates were not high enough to build a market rate project. That's why tax credits were essential. In fact, if Richman doesn't get the tax credits it needs it will pull out (as it did in Florida; see previous chapter). She followed this fairly basic observation with a snide remark to the effect that "affordability" doesn't mean that "everyone is on welfare". Pam also told us something about the things that Richman would be requiring from the City: generous tax abatements and unhindered access to powers of eminent domain. Indeed Richman had already identified the lots it intends to grab by eminent domain. A map of the North End of Middletown can be seen at: North End District . The district under consideration is colored pink. In the key below the map it is identified as DVD, (downtown village district). Looking closely one should be able to make out the names of Ferry, Green and Rapallo Streets and the frame formed by Washington Street, DeKoven drive and Main. One is tempted to stand aside and look with amazement at the combativeness between individuals and institutions, the fierce passions aroused by this tiny parcel of real estate. Indeed, the lines from "Hamlet" come to mind:


Truly to speak, and with no addition,
We go to gain a little patch of ground
That hath in it no profit but the name.
To pay five ducats, five, I would not farm it;
Nor will it yield to Norway or the Pole
A ranker rate, should it be sold in fee. HAMLET
Why, then the Polack never will defend it.


Yes, it is already garrison'd.


Two thousand souls and twenty thousand ducats
Will not debate the question of this straw:
This is the imposthume of much wealth and peace,
That inward breaks, and shows no cause without
Why the man dies. I humbly thank you, sir

On January 12th the members of NEHI convened in a meeting room at the Liberty Bank at which, acceding to the demands of Pam King, the bankers and Planning and Zoning, it voted to give the Connection Fund complete authority to represent its interests. The vote was not unanimous. Michael Taylor of Nehemiah House in particular, with memories of less than civil behavior on the part of Connection in the past, abstained from the vote and asked that his objections be put into the record.

Up until then we'd been dealing with Carl Rodenhizer, a decent and reasonable person, whose personal faults are no worse than those of the rest of us. (I can see Carl laughing his head off when he reads these lines.) Unfortunately he's only an employee of Connection and therefore answerable to Peter Nucci, who soon proved himself to be an oppressive overlord incapable not only of responding to advice or criticism, but even of recognizing that it was being given. The period of the rule of Nucci was a painful one for all of us.In my opinion, the City was determined to get rid of us, and used the reliable intractability of Mr. Nucci as their excuse for doing so.

The very next day, Peter Nucci was called before the Redevelopment Agency on January 13, 2004 to defend NEHI's plan. The tenor of this meeting (which we all attended, but were not permitted to speak), was such that no one from the outside would even have suspected that the RA or the Common Council had ever endorsed NEHI as the designated developer for the North End. Bill Warner stood up and announced, in fact, that the RA was going to serve as judges to a "competition" between 3 developers. The first was the Connection Fund, the second was the Richman Group.

For the third, so as to give the impression of complying with the laws on competitive bidding, was - The Middletown Housing Authority (MHA)! Like a rabbit pulled out of a hat, the agency that had been officially disqualified in July was now being invited to present it's "plan" for consideration by the RA, although it's new plan was identical with the old: opposition to NEHI and nothing else!

In the interim, however, NEHI had found a new for-profit developer, one with more integrity than Richman, with a long track record of success in low income housing development.

The inclusion of Broad Park in the process was the idea of Lois Santiago, NEAT vice-president. She lives in the North End, works in the office of Christopher Dodd, and is on the board of Broad Park. Broad Park is one of the principal developers of the Frog Hollow area adjacent to Trinity College in Hartford, and of low income housing in the South Green area. Their publicity may be examined at Broad Park

On February 18 a representative from Broad Park, Romulo Samaniego, came to a general NEAT meeting. He created a good impression, particularly when compared with the treatment we'd been getting from the Richman Group. For one thing, he did not dismiss the questions we asked him with empty words to the effect that "we'll take care of all that", nor did he react to more critical questions as if they were personal threats, both specialties of Pam King. Pam also likes to talk dirty, which is all right in the context of an Allan Ginsburg poem, but seems a bit strange coming from the representative of a billion dollar corporation.

On March 9th the 3 "competitors" were called back for another meeting with the RA.

NEHI met with Broad Park again on March 11. Romulo asked for documentation of the Common Council endorsement agreement of July 2002. It also requested a copy of the limited liability incorporation contract that created NEHI, and the minutes of the meeting at which NEHI voted to designate the Connection Fund as the lead developer.

On March 16, Pam King sent a letter to Bill Warner in which the Richman Group's intentions regarding the North End are clearly stated. This letter was photocopied and passed around at the next meeting of the RA. A much annotated copy of this letter may be read at Pam King's Letter of March 16,2004

Although it gives the impression of having been dashed off at an idle moment,(and does not claim to be more than speculative), it has been the foundation of all negotiations of the Richman Group with the City ever since.

It was at the NEHI meeting of Thursday morning, March 20, that Carl Rodenhizer, acting on orders from Mr. Nucci, began dictating Connection's commands to us. To his credit he wasn't very good at it, and seemed more embarrassed than anything else. The official "competition" of Connection, Richman and Broad Park, opened at the RA meeting of March 22nd. To no-one's surprise, the immediate response of the RA was the complete rejection of Connection and NEHI as legitimate players in the re-construction of Middletown's North End. In a few words, all of the non-profit developers were swept off the table, and only the two for-profits Broad Park and the Richman Group, retained. The MHA, having, like the catalyst in a chemical reaction, served its function, mysteriously dropped out

In the next Common Council meeting on the first Monday in May, 2004, the Richman Group was temporarily designated the official developer of the North End. Here is a copy of my statement to the Common Council that was read into the record. Statement to the Common Council

Some concessions had been made. Since the Richman group needs the cooperation of local neighborhood groups for its low income housing tax credit applications, NEAT was required to approve and co-sign the Memorandum of Understanding. Furthermore, it was agreed that Broad Park would be involved in the creation of a small number of units of private home ownership. The rest of the neighborhood would be re-constructed as rental property for Richman, in accordance with the guidelines laid down by Pam King's letter of March 16th. If you look at this letter you will see that the Richman group talks about a 108-unit block of buildings, essentially a "project" it intends to build on the corner of Ferry and Main Streets into which all the poorest residents of the present neighborhood, (those who choose to remain rather than emigrate from Middletown) will be corralled. Six months later, when Richman's status of preferred developer was changed from "temporary" to "permanent", this stated objective had been modified to a 96-unit project covering 4 5-story buildings in the middle of Ferry Street.

Broad Park representatives came again to the general meeting of NEAT on June 9, 2004.The impression they created once again was favorable: Romulo cited the 25 years record of work in poor neighborhoods and low income housing in Hartford. They urged us to co-sign the Memorandum of Understanding so that they could have their tax credit applications ready by September.

NEAT adjourned for the summer. The next major event was the appearance of Pam King herself on September 15 at a NEAT meeting, after more than two years of promises to do so! Within 15 minutes she'd re-iterated everything she'd said in the past and contributed nothing. I walked out in disgust. I later learned that her liberal interjections of four-letter words had turned everyone off, particularly since it appears to be the case that she talks that way to "get down with the real folks on the street".

On November 18 the Redevelopment Agency , in what was clearly a formality, voted to rescind its endorsement of NEHI. In a private executive session from which the public was excluded, it endorsed the Richman plan as detailed in the letter March 16, (with the modifications described above). Apparently it was a strange meeting, one in which Pam King behaved so outrageously that the hostility of several of the normally supine membership of the RA was aroused. True to form, Pam showed up an hour late, in the middle of a slide presentation being given by Broad Park. She strode to the front of the room and around the long conference table, cutting the beam of the slide projector. She then slumped into a chair, took up an insolent posture and crossed her arms across her chest, as if to say: "So? What do you want from me?"

That was only the beginning. Obviously she has to be given credit for gall; she needed it. Emboldened perhaps by the Goodspeed fiasco ( which was then being played out in the newspapers) she said that Richman would not consider the project unless the City coughed up $2,000,000 up front, just for the north side of Ferry Street! What she said was that the low income housing tax credits they were applying for only covered "construction costs". It didn't cover "acquisition costs". This created a "gap" of $1.6 million, which Richman could not be expected to pay out of its own (very deep) pockets. Furthermore, she pegged the amount of money the City was willing to give them, to the number of evictions Richman would be "forced" to serve on poor people! Note that their blackmail only covers one-sixth of the district: Richman will certainly be coming back for more.

People as dissimilar as Jennifer Alexander (wife to Mark Masselli, director of the Middletown Housing Authority), and Gerry Daley, (chairman of the Economic Development committee) were beside themselves with indignation. However when the issue came to a vote, only Jennifer Alexander voted against granted the money to Richman, This is significant, as her husband had not only been hostile to NEHI, but had immediately indicated a willingness to bond with the Richman Group when their acknowledgement by the City was announced. Bill Warner of course pushed hard for Richman.

On December 13, the Richman Group was unanimously approved as the designated developer for Middletown's North End. For what it 's worth, Richman promised to work with NEAT on neighborhood issues, and entered into an agreement with Broad Park, which is responsible for constructing and maintaining a small number of private home ownerships in the neighborhood. The Richman plan, with minor modifications is that of the letter of March 16th. The following week I sent off this letter to the Middletown Press. It was published a few days later: Middletown Press Letter, December 2005. As of this writing, it does not appear that the Richman Group will be able to submit an application for low income housing tax credits by the deadline at the end of the month. This may mean a wait of another year, in which case the bull-dozers will not arrive (if they ever do) before 2007.

NEHI went through the formalities of dissolving its legal status as a limited liability corporation (LLC) in January 2005. There have been no more Thursday morning meetings since then.

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