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Old 01-26-2013, 04:04 PM
 
Location: Brooklyn
97 posts, read 117,098 times
Reputation: 94

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So I took a trip up to New Britain last weekend with a friend who is buying property there. Very unique place. Thought the Polish neighborhood was cool to see in a smaller city. Some incredible homes and churches. Although I'm not religious I was amazed at the architecture of the various churches: Polish, Italian, Lithuanian, Russian.

At the same time I couldn't help noticing the blight in many of the neighborhoods there. So a couple of questions:

1) Was New Britain at one time a very wealthy city that could afford to construct all these elaborate churches?

2) I realize that many blue collar jobs disappeared in these older CT cities in the years after WW2. Why did the people in the rest of the state let the cities decline this much? With so many wealthy towns in CT surrounding New Britain, why haven't investors snapped up property and gentrified the area? Which leads to my next question...

3) My friend said that New Britain and Hartford are in a very enviable location being between Boston and New York and part of the DC-Boston megalopolis. With high-speed trains eventually planned to connect DC to Boston will cities like New Britain regain vitality as bedroom communities of the major cities? With such unique architecture I think people will appreciate New Britain's pre WW2 architecture and redevelop it much like parts of Brooklyn, Boston, and DC.

Can any native Nutmeggers spread some insight?

Thanks.
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Old 01-26-2013, 04:57 PM
 
4,787 posts, read 8,761,139 times
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New Britain was never ever anything but a blue collar city with a heavy manufacturing base. It had a large immigrant population ( who found steady work in the factories ) from this countries you've noted. It's nickname was the Hardware City, as tools and hardware formed the base of what it produced.

As most immigrants do, those populations, Italian, Polish, Russian, Lithuanian, stuck together in neighborhoods and based community life around their churches. They contributed to the building of the early churches with both cash and sometimes, to an extent, their own sweat labor from craftsman within the community.
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Old 01-26-2013, 10:13 PM
 
Location: Central, CT
841 posts, read 1,652,432 times
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There used to be a trolley between Hartford and new Britain. A lot of post war little brick houses as a result. As prev noted lots of different nationalities. CT is in the process of building a dedicated bus road from new Britain to Hartford. With central ct state university in new Britain there are still plenty of different people. New britains culture is also part of the reason certain neighborhoods are impoverished...once people of a certain culture moved on other people moved in but not right away, vacancies created lost business opportunities, dereliction, etc, the city didn't fully recover. There are still sections (the edge Farmington, Kensington, and west Hartford, near the hospital there are some real nice neighborhoods) that are safe/nice and since the city lines are blurred you can get a deal, plus the school and hospital provide a good tax base.

I lived in new Britain circa 2004, the rent for a whole house was cheap. Not in one of the "fancy" areas (slater road area)...we had police foot chases through our yard and someone tried to steal my brothers jeep. We only stayed about 6 months. That's the more common reputation.
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Old 01-27-2013, 12:25 AM
 
Location: New Britain, CT
857 posts, read 673,782 times
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Our city is also called Hard Hittin' New Britain. They're not talking about the Golden Hurricanes (high school) or the Blue Devils (CCSU) either. Most of Arch Street is bad, especially at night, close to downtown. I wouldn't suggest Winter, North or Oak Streets behind the NewBrite Shopping Plaza. The housing projects off of Myrtle Street and Corbin Avenue aren't too pleasant. Mayor Tim O'Brien promised a crackdown on blighted properties. Funny, there's a house/former business one block from my place that was on fire on both November 2nd and this past Monday. Other eyesores include a home on Winthrop Street and another place roughly across the street from the Citgo/Food Bag store. That burned long before the other two did.

One of our positives is New Britain Stadium and the Rock Cats, the AA-level Eastern League affiliate of the Minnesota Twins. They play in Willow Brook Park by the Berlin town line. Minor League baseball has been in this city since 1983, counting the prior Red Sox franchise we had.
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Old 01-27-2013, 12:16 PM
 
Location: Brooklyn
97 posts, read 117,098 times
Reputation: 94
Quote:
Originally Posted by TobinJ View Post
There used to be a trolley between Hartford and new Britain. A lot of post war little brick houses as a result. As prev noted lots of different nationalities. CT is in the process of building a dedicated bus road from new Britain to Hartford. With central ct state university in new Britain there are still plenty of different people. New britains culture is also part of the reason certain neighborhoods are impoverished...once people of a certain culture moved on other people moved in but not right away, vacancies created lost business opportunities, dereliction, etc, the city didn't fully recover. There are still sections (the edge Farmington, Kensington, and west Hartford, near the hospital there are some real nice neighborhoods) that are safe/nice and since the city lines are blurred you can get a deal, plus the school and hospital provide a good tax base.

I lived in new Britain circa 2004, the rent for a whole house was cheap. Not in one of the "fancy" areas (slater road area)...we had police foot chases through our yard and someone tried to steal my brothers jeep. We only stayed about 6 months. That's the more common reputation.
Thanks for the info. Does the university create a "village" type atmosphere in that part of the city, similar to other college towns?

So when exactly did the switchover occur from one ethnic group to another? Which neighborhoods were known to be the "Italian" neighborhood or the "Irish", the "Polish" and so on. Why did the Polish neighborhoods continue when it seems the other ethnicities didn't.

Is it a racial issue? Are there racial issues? New Britain seems like a small enough city that you're not going to have full scale ghettoes like in Brooklyn or DC or Philly or the segregation you find in Southern cities like Atlanta. Also in a liberal state like CT aren't people more tolerant of each other?
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Old 01-27-2013, 12:20 PM
 
Location: Brooklyn
97 posts, read 117,098 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by KEVIN_224 View Post
Our city is also called Hard Hittin' New Britain. They're not talking about the Golden Hurricanes (high school) or the Blue Devils (CCSU) either. Most of Arch Street is bad, especially at night, close to downtown. I wouldn't suggest Winter, North or Oak Streets behind the NewBrite Shopping Plaza. The housing projects off of Myrtle Street and Corbin Avenue aren't too pleasant. Mayor Tim O'Brien promised a crackdown on blighted properties. Funny, there's a house/former business one block from my place that was on fire on both November 2nd and this past Monday. Other eyesores include a home on Winthrop Street and another place roughly across the street from the Citgo/Food Bag store. That burned long before the other two did.

One of our positives is New Britain Stadium and the Rock Cats, the AA-level Eastern League affiliate of the Minnesota Twins. They play in Willow Brook Park by the Berlin town line. Minor League baseball has been in this city since 1983, counting the prior Red Sox franchise we had.
Why doesn't the major close the housing projects and give them section 8 vouchers to live in other areas of the state? Why concentrate the poor in just a few areas? I believe Oak St or LaSalle street might have been the neighborhood where my friend inherited the property. Are there projects near there too? If not projects, then do the poor people rent the houses from landlords that live in other CT towns/cities?

I find New Britain to be a fascinating place with this incredible late 19th/early 20th century architecture that doesn't exist in most places in America except in large cities in the Northeast (NY, DC, Philly, Baltimore, Boston) or Chicago and Pittsburgh. It's a shame that nobody is restoring these properties to their former glory.
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Old 01-27-2013, 06:01 PM
 
Location: W Hartford, CT
1,787 posts, read 3,443,722 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by willow wind View Post
New Britain was never ever anything but a blue collar city with a heavy manufacturing base. It had a large immigrant population ( who found steady work in the factories ) from this countries you've noted. It's nickname was the Hardware City, as tools and hardware formed the base of what it produced.

As most immigrants do, those populations, Italian, Polish, Russian, Lithuanian, stuck together in neighborhoods and based community life around their churches. They contributed to the building of the early churches with both cash and sometimes, to an extent, their own sweat labor from craftsman within the community.
I agree with most of this, but belive it or not the Walnut Hill Park & Stanley Park neighborhoods used to be wealthy enclaves long ago. Many of the streets in this nabes are lined with large Tudors and colonials, most of which were occupied by NBGH doctors and surgeons, and executives from manufacturers like Stanley and others. They're still nice, well-kept areas and safe, but they're the not affluent areas they used to be.

To the OP, as far why manufacturing declined this is what's happened everywhere. When the housing projects went up, they were built with the intent to house workers during WW2, who were drawn to the area's then-booming defense industries. But after the war manufacturing declined and so too did the quality of life there. As manufacturers either went elsewhere or went out of business, the areas grew poorer and poorer. I don't think anyone could have foreseen just how bad living conditions would grow there. Same thing happened in Hartford too and their housing projects are even worse.

Many of NB's old projects are coming down. Pinnacle Heights and Mount Pleasant, both in the northwest part of town, are either demolished or are slated to be torn down soon. This is where most of the city's public housing is. But the city's east side can be rough, too. There's alot of duplexes and apartments here, which in theory isn't a bad thing, but these ones are also occupied by lower-income residents (section 8, welfare recipients, etc). I'm not saying this to bash the city - they do have some beautiful areas and attractive architecture and the public amenities are great - but anytime you have high concentrations of poor people and limited access to decent-paying jobs for an unskilled workforce (which the city's manufacturing base once provided), then usually this means lots of crime.

As for whether the city will ever return to its glory days, who knows? Anything is possible, but one thing I don't see is the Hartford-New Britain area becoming a bedroom community for New Yorkers or Bostonians. Some people do commute a few times a month into these cities from here for meetings, but that's about it. High-speed rail may very well materialize (and I support this) but it will take years for this to reach completion. When it does, it still seems unlikely that people will want to commute 100 miles to Boston or New York daily. It would definitely be a nice amenity to be able to have a rail stop in town for those of us who don't want to drive to New Haven to to into the city, but I dont' see us becoming commuter rail suburbs like in Westchester or northeast Jersey. We're just too far away.
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Old 01-28-2013, 02:50 AM
 
6 posts, read 11,705 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by germansoldiers View Post
Why doesn't the major close the housing projects and give them section 8 vouchers to live in other areas of the state? Why concentrate the poor in just a few areas? I believe Oak St or LaSalle street might have been the neighborhood where my friend inherited the property. Are there projects near there too? If not projects, then do the poor people rent the houses from landlords that live in other CT towns/cities?

I find New Britain to be a fascinating place with this incredible late 19th/early 20th century architecture that doesn't exist in most places in America except in large cities in the Northeast (NY, DC, Philly, Baltimore, Boston) or Chicago and Pittsburgh. It's a shame that nobody is restoring these properties to their former glory.
You are exactly right. I live in New Britain now and have the same feeling. I like to walk around downtown and Walnut Hill Park and marvel at the architecture and wonder about the potential. New Britain also has a rich artistic history as well, with the Art League of New Britain, NBMAA, Greater New Britain Arts Alliance. Often times it is a strong arts community that leads the effort of breathing life back into these post-industrial areas.

New Britain, I've learned, is highly politicized, and politics here are slimey. More so than any small city I've ever seen. Look into the landlord debates. Read comments from just about any article in the local newspaper, New Britain Herald. Or how about this recent headline - $25,000 Reward Offered for Arrest, Conviction of O’Brien, Sherwood. Before you formulate an opinion on this I would spend a few moments to research Sam Zherka and his history of political involvement and business in Westchester and NYC.

I'm led to believe that this sort of style of political back-and-forth would make it extremely difficult to enact positive changes in any city. There are, however, a number of non-partisan organizations run by residents working hard to revitalize and spread enthusiasm towards the points you mentioned above, germansoldiers, and their efforts are met with appreciation from the public.

As to the empty storefronts downtown. What sane business owner would invest time and capital into a downtown with such an uncertain future and weird political environment right now? The right type of commerce attracts not only people but more business as well, increasing property values for all. It's a winning scenario, but a catch-22 at the moment.

If you truly admire New Britain I would suggest to keep up to date with revitalization efforts and inform yourself of the current political issues. There is potential, and there are core groups of residents eagerly working towards positive change.

Last edited by CLexplorer; 01-28-2013 at 03:03 AM..
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Old 01-28-2013, 12:45 PM
 
Location: New Britain, CT
857 posts, read 673,782 times
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@ GERMANSOLDIERS: There is the Farmington Hills housing complex in the area you mentioned. I had a friend who once lived in this complex on Lasalle Street. Access is mostly from Stanley Street, across from Fairview Cemetery.
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Old 01-28-2013, 07:41 PM
 
6 posts, read 11,705 times
Reputation: 10
Quote:
Originally Posted by KEVIN_224 View Post
@ GERMANSOLDIERS: There is the Farmington Hills housing complex in the area you mentioned. I had a friend who once lived in this complex on Lasalle Street. Access is mostly from Stanley Street, across from Fairview Cemetery.
That Farmington Hills complex on Ledgecrest is actually owned by the same Sam Zherka that has been at the center of much of the recent political controversy.

Last edited by CLexplorer; 01-28-2013 at 08:46 PM..
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