Sociologist Sees It As A Diamond In The Rough With Jagged Edges
January 28, 2006
Commentary by Stan Simpson
Funny thing about talking to newcomers.
Ask them their impressions of the capital city and they'll usually
mention amenities you've taken for granted, or make observations
that simply never registered before.
Calvin Moore regularly made the bus
trip from Boston to New York to see friends, catch a play or visit
an art museum. The interlude at Union Station in downtown Hartford
always made an impression on him - sort of.
"I don't want to offend the people
that run the bus terminal, but I would have thought that somebody
or a city leader would have already thought that we need to spruce
up anything that we expose to a large population of outsiders,"
Moore said this week over lunch.
"Every time I go to that bus station
I say, you know, this could really change the image of Hartford
if it made a statement - something that says `WE'RE HARTFORD!' instead
of `we're hartford.'"
He's right. It gets the job done, but
the station is drab, dreary, nondescript. There aren't any marketing
materials inside - none I saw, anyway - that even tell you where
you are, much less promote Hartford.
Despite the lousy welcome, when Moore
secured a sociology professorship at Eastern Connecticut State University
in Willimantic 17 months ago, the first place he decided to look
for a home was - Hartford. He wanted to be in an urban environment
and chose the Sheldon/Charter Oak area.
Now the man who thought Hartford would
be pure hell to visit describes his new home city as "heavenly."
You heard me.
"It's a great location for someone
who wants to claim the metropolitan New York-Boston area as a playground,"
said Moore, 46. "And I love being in walking distance of one
of New England's great art museums," the Wadsworth Atheneum
Museum of Art.
"Price-wise and location-wise,
[Hartford] has one of the better housing markets in New England,"
What's intriguing about Moore is that
he doesn't represent the conventional profile of the new faces moving
to the city. He's not a retired and well-heeled suburbanite, or
a 30-something young professional.
Moore, who is African American, is
a bachelor. He has a doctorate in sociology from Boston College
and is a Harvard-trained lawyer who once worked as a public defender
in Washington, D.C. He has lived in big cites and worked in rural
posts in Maine and upstate New York. Golf and art museums are among
his interests. Instead of driving the streets, Moore prefers to
"If you're a single male, you
don't want to be in the suburbs in a big house by yourself, surrounded
by people pushing baby carriages," he said with a laugh.
Bemused by the hand-wringing about
how to improve Hartford, Moore believes the city just has to embrace
and promote what it is - a midpoint between two major cities with
an eclectic mix of cultures, arts attractions and parks. Hartford
may not have the bright lights of the Big Apple, but neither are
the rents and housing prices as exorbitant.
As a sociologist, Moore's forte is
studying people, particularly the interaction of those from different
economic classes. Naturally, he finds Hartford - the poorest city
in one of the richest states - a fascinating case study.
The downtown housing boom could trigger
a culture clash at some point, Moore predicts, if development spreads
into the neighborhoods and the working class is shunned.
"The city's going to have to be
sensitive not only to the displacement of people but the impact
of gentrification on the well-being of the people," he said,
adding that Hartford's central role has been as an enclave for the
On the political scene, Moore is curious
about the lack of substantive political involvement among the Latinos
and blacks who make up the city's majority. At some point, he says,
someone is going to see the `'political vacuum" and seize the
Our conversation ends with Moore talking
about the need for a stronger presence of college students downtown.
That young energy and adventurous nature is what adds to a city's
identity and gives it a vibe like Boston's and New Haven's.
For someone so new to the area - he
hasn't hit most of the good restaurants yet and I winced when he
pronounced the state's newspaper of record as the "Kur-aunt"
- Moore is an unabashed booster of Hartford.
Considering his first impression, that's
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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