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Residents Packing Up, Moving Out Of Nelton Court Complex

JEFFREY B. COHEN

November 12, 2009

Juan Padilla stands in front of his Nelton Court apartment, holding a Double Diamond grape-flavored cigar in one hand and using the other hand to point.

"Friends right there. Friends right there. Friend over here. Friend in that building. Friend on the other side," Padilla said, stopping to take a breath. "Friend right there. Over here." He points toward Main Street. "My mother-in-law's right here in that building over there."

Padilla has lived at Nelton Court for nine years, and he, his wife and his 11-year-old son wouldn't leave their $50-a-month, three-bedroom apartment if they didn't have to.

"Never."

But they have to."Everybody's got to go," Padilla said. "So I got to go."

Nelton Court is the last federally subsidized public housing still standing in the city. Its siblings Dutch Point, Stowe Village, Charter Oak Terrace have all been knocked down and rebuilt.

Padilla lives in Building 13, one of 14 at Nelton Court, where the grass is cut but weeds grow from gutters overhead.

Of the 157 units, 86 are occupied. Demolition, the Hartford Housing Authority says, should start as soon as the last person is out sometime after the new year. The authority will then build new, low-income rental housing.

The apartment next to Padilla's is empty, with boarded-up windows. Jagged glass lines a broken window pane in the unit's outer door. Padilla knows Nelton Court has a reputation for violence, but he said he doesn't have problems with anybody, and nobody has a problem with him.

"They say you make the place, wherever you go," Padilla said.

Inside his apartment, Padilla and his wife apologize for the state of things. Packing boxes and baby toys line the upstairs hall. His son's bedroom is padlocked shut, but Padilla smiling opens it with a key. When he does, there's a bed. And boxes.

"He's packing his things, too," Padilla, 52, said. "We are packing up. That's why it's a mess."

Padilla expects to move later this year. He already has gotten his Section 8 approval from the authority, which will pay much of the rent he'll owe for his next apartment. But wherever he and his family land, they're not looking to stay there long.

"I want to return to Nelton Court, you know what I'm saying?" Padilla said. "I will return here. 'Cause I've been here and I like it here. Part of my life is here. ... My ex-wife died right here, you know? She died right in my bedroom, right here.

"That's why if they ask me to come back," he said, "I will come back."

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
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