December 7, 2005
By JEFFREY B. COHEN, Courant Staff Writer
Thieves, vandals, and others up to no good on Park Street in Hartford, beware - you will soon be under watch.
On Friday, the State Bond Commission is expected to approve $1 million in funding for Park Street rehabilitation. More than half of that will be used for building facade improvements, but the first order of business will be buying about 50 video surveillance cameras, officials said.
"Our priority is to start right away with the cameras," said Julio Mendoza, director of the Spanish American Merchants Association. The group has led the charge for the cameras, which will cost close to $400,000.
The goal is to improve public safety, protect business investments and deter crime, Mendoza said. "Once this is done, we will be able to tell someone, `You're secure to come to Park Street. You have nothing to worry about,'" he said. "And that's what it is - it's more perception than anything."
The state bond funding will help the association revamp Park Street, an effort that includes the cameras, repaving streets, improving sidewalks, installing lampposts and planting trees.
The first phase of the streetscape project began more than two years ago. New lampposts, trees, curb cutouts and sidewalks are in place, and pavement work is all but complete, from Park Terrace to Broad Street, Mendoza said. By springtime, he said, the same should be true from Broad Street to Washington Street, completing the first phase.
Improvements from Washington Street to Main Street should begin in the spring and could be done by the fall, Mendoza said. That second phase totals about $4 million, Mendoza said. The $1 million bond allocation will cover the surveillance cameras and some facade improvements.
"We got $1 million, and we're happy about it," he said. "This at least will do the most important thing that we wanted to do: the cameras."
The police department is open to the idea of monitoring the video footage, Mendoza said. He met with Police Chief Patrick J. Harnett on Tuesday to discuss the plan.
"He's very receptive to the idea," he said. "He hasn't committed, but he was receptive."
Harnett's spokesman did not return calls for comment.
The street work and resulting road closures have caused some frustration among Park Street merchants whose businesses were disrupted, Mendoza said.
"But that's normal for this type of project," he said, adding that the association has a hired a person to act as a liaison with the merchants.
The bond funding was supported by Gov. M. Jodi Rell and state Sen. John Fonfara, D-Hartford, among others.
"This is an investment in jobs, in culture, in public safety and in our quality of life," Rell said. "This is the main retail corridor for New England's Hispanic community, and as governor I intend to see that corridor flourish."
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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