Friends of Kensington Playground News

by Jane Comins, Friends of Kensington Playground

Easter Event: More than 80 children and their families attended our fun, festive event in Kensington Playground in April. Kids participated in an egg hunt, egg dyeing, making and decorating bonnets, free books, and received an Easter basket full of chocolate. Renee’s Closet was also in the park with a pop-up shop of clean, ready-to-wear clothing and jewelry.

Park Proposal: All Community Management Teams in the City of New Haven have approved a resolution calling on the Parks Department to adopt a policy that every neighborhood should have a public playground. We would like to publicly thank them.

Tax-Exempt Status: We are applying for 501(c)(3) status, with the assistance of the CT Urban Legal Initiative. (Although we incorporated in 2020 as a nonprofit organization, we did not apply for tax-exempt status at that time.)

Legal Update: As of mid-April, we are still awaiting the judge’s ruling regarding our March 9 hearing, in which the City asks the court to dismiss our CEPA (CT Environmental Protection Act) claim.

Learn More. Get Involved. Donate: We remain hopeful that our efforts will result in the city reclaiming/saving this valuable and irreplaceable neighborhood greenspace. Please visit our website to get involved, sign our petition, and donate toward our lawsuit to save Kensington Playground at: KensingtonPlayground.org and/or gofundme.com/f/save-kensington-playground
[Read the whole article at www.newhavenindependent.org/article/kensington_park_lawsuit]

Park Case Question: Might Trees Remain Standing?

by Thomas Breen, New Haven Independent, March 10, 2022

Maybe the developer will build around the trees?

A city-hired attorney offered that defense in state court during the latest hearing about whether or not New Haven violated a state environmental law by agreeing to sell a Dwight public greenspace.

That’s the latest in the ongoing case Friends of Kensington Playground v. City of New Haven.

Parks group attorney Keith Ainsworth and city-hired attorney Nancy Valentino duked it out, legally speaking, before state Superior Court Judge James Abrams during a live-streamed virtual hearing on the city’s motion to strike a key part of the underlying lawsuit.

Abrams did not issue a ruling during Wednesday’s hearing itself; he is expected to submit a written order on the matter soon.

The state court case dates back to November 2020, when a group of Dwight open-space advocates filed a lawsuit looking to stop the city from selling a 0.67-acre park on Kensington Street for $1 to The Community Builders (TCB).
The Boston-based developer plans to build 15 new affordable apartments atop the public greenspace as part of TCB’s $30 million Phase 2 redevelopment of the adjacent Kensington Square apartment complex. The city in turn has agreed to set aside new public parkland in Newhallville, while TCB must invest $80,000 in improvements at the nearby city-owned Day Street Park.

In June 2021, a state judge threw out half of the park advocates lawsuit after agreeing with the city that Dwight resident Patricia Wallace and the park friends group do not have legal standing to sue the city under a state law that limits how municipalities may “take” open space.

That left only one legal allegation remaining in the parks group’s bid to stop the city from handing over the park to the housing builder.

That allegation — that the city’s park-transfer approval violates the Connecticut Environmental Protection Act (CEPA), or Connecticut General Statutes § 22a-16 — was at the center of Wednesday’s hearing.

Valentino kicked off the hearing by making the case for the city’s motion to strike from October 2021.

CEPA allows someone to sue the state or a municipality “for the protection of the public trust in the air, water and other natural resources of the state from unreasonable pollution, impairment or destruction,” she said, quoting the law itself.

[Read the whole article at www.newhavenindependent.org/article/kensington_park_lawsuit]

Kensington Playground Holiday Celebration and Update

by Jane Comins, Friends of Kensington Playground

On Sunday afternoon, Dec. 12, 2021, Friends of Kensington Playground (FOKP) hosted a festive Holiday Celebration in Kensington Playground (KP). Kids, families, and neighbors gathered around a Christmas tree to drink hot chocolate, eat delicious cookies and clementines, create holiday ornaments, and decorate the tree. Kids chose free books compliments of New Haven Reads. At 4 p.m. when we turned on the lights, the park was filled with song as Tangled Up In Blue, Yale’s folk music group, led a carol sing. It was heartwarming to see so many residents using the playground.

FOKP thanks Dunkin Donuts at 1137 Chapel, Edge of the Woods Market, Four Flours Bakery, and New Haven Reads for their donations, and Tangled Up In Blue. We’d also like to thank students from Hillhouse High School. They helped children make ornaments and drew a beautiful Rudolf on the sidewalk in chalk.

The court rejected The Community Builders’ (TCB) latest motion to intervene as a party in the lawsuit, a victory for us. Our lawsuit is about the lack of democratic process by the City in deciding to give away our neighborhood’s only public playground.

The Park Commission tabled our motion to create a pro-playground policy, presented back in July. They continue to break the law by not posting minutes of their meetings.

We have asked the New Haven Public Schools to donate a playscape to Kensington Playground. They own one at the now-closed Strong School on Orchard Street. It appears to be abandoned and is covered with graffiti. If they are willing, we would then ask the Parks Department to move it to Kensington Playground and paint it.

We owe our lawyer $925. We would be grateful for contributions in any amount.

To get involved, donate, and sign our petition, please visit our website: KensingtonPlayground.org

Protecting Dwight’s only playground from sale and development is costly. Take a stand for democracy. Fight environmental injustice. Require our City, State and federal governments to follow the law.

Happy New Year!

News from Friends of Kensington Playground

Jane Comins, Friends of Kensington Playground

We continue our fight to save Kensington Playground, the only public playground in Dwight. Thank you to those of you who have donated to our campaign. Our lawsuit continues. The next court date has not been set. As the legal activity continues, so do our legal bills.

Playground Proposal: On July 21, 2021 Friends of Kensington Playground asked the New Haven Board of Park Com-missioners to adopt a policy to “never give up the only public park in a neighborhood, and to always have at least one playground per neighborhood with a playscape and splash pad or water element.” They tabled the proposal, saying they would talk about it. Westville/West Hills, Fair Haven, Beaver Hills, and Downtown Community Manage-ment Teams have endorsed this position and sent letters to city officials. (Thank you!) Help us get on the agenda for your Management Team this fall.

Friends of Kensington Playground has created a timeline of key decisions made in the sale of Kensington Playground. It shows how there was only one meeting where public comment was allowed, and how the Board of Alders approved the sale despite tremendous opposition to it by residents. We have created posters to share how this undemocratic decision was made, and placed them in the park and on our website. Let us know your ideas about where else this information can be displayed.

Protecting Dwight’s only playground from sale and development is costly, even though we have done as much of the work as possible ourselves. Please be as generous as you can. Don’t let the City take this playground for $1 with an illegal process. Take a stand for democracy. Fight environmental injustice. Require our city, state and federal governments to follow the law. To get involved, donate, and sign our petition, please visit our website: KensingtonPlayground.org.

[Also see: ctmirror.org/ct-viewpoints/Kensington-playground-dwights-irreplaceable-greenspace-jane/#]

The Friends of Kensington Playground April Update

by Jane Comins, Friends of Kensington Playground

Taking the Dwight neighborhood’s only public playground for housing amounts to environmental injustice. Our efforts to save Kensington Playground from development continue.

Friends of Kensington Playground lawsuit in State court:

  • The City of New Haven has filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit (on the grounds of lack of standing).  One Friend owns her home and lives across the street, so we expect to win on that.
  • The Community Builders (TCB) has filed a motion to be a party in the lawsuit.  The judge has said no for now.

The Mayor said no to mediation at March’s neighborhood meeting, choosing instead to spend taxpayer funds needless-ly to defend a lawsuit.  There are win-win options. Mediation could be helpful.
We asked the national Advisory Council on Historic Preservation to get involved. They have asked the City of New Haven to explain how people in the community were involved in consideration of the sale of the site and how a review of the site’s historic significance was done in advance of the decision to sell it.

Friends of Kensington Playground will be hosting several events in the park. Please come and please wear a mask. Food Pantry, Easter Basket Giveaway: Saturday, April 3, 10 a.m.; Park Spring Clean Up: Sat., April 10, 10-11 a.m.; Kids Bike Safety Clinic: Sat., Apr. 17, 10 a.m.-12 p.m.; Clothing/Household Goods Giveaway – May, date pending.

To get involved, learn more, donate, and sign our petition, please visit our website: KensingtonPlayground.org.

Protecting Dwight’s only playground from sale and development is costly, even though we have done as much of the work as possible ourselves. Please be as generous as you can. Don’t let the City take this playground for $1 with an illegal process. Take a stand for democracy. Fight environ-mental injustice. Require our city, state and federal governments to follow the law.