The last of the city of Hartford’s postwar, low-income, federally-financed public housing units is about to come down. In its place, the Hartford Housing Authority plans to build 80 new apartments. WNPR’s Jeff Cohen reports.
Nelton Court has the look of the old, barracks-style complexes that were originally intended as housing for people in transition. Over time, the use changed as the community did. For some, it was a place to buy drugs. For others, like Evelyn Cortez, it was home for 15 years. And it may be home again.
“The way I've seen how everything’s going to change, because I’ve seen the maps of how they’re going to do Nelton Court, I will decide to come back.”
Housing authority Executive Director Alan Green recalled a conversation with one of his predecessors – John Wardlaw -- as he spoke about Nelton Court.
“That if he took this position, he did not want to be in the position of warehousing people. Families who might have some economic or financial challenges should not be living in housing that looks like it was constructed for poor people.”
The groundbreaking ceremony had the feeling of a high school reunion. Hartford Mayor Pedro Segarra spoke about coming to Nelton Court as a kid in platform shoes before a disco night out. Green and Congressman John Larson traded jabs about their old basketball teams.
“There’s a lot of history here. But I just want to say thank you, to all of you, and the congressman, who played at East Hartford High School. We all knew each other. So this isn’t the first day that we’re all coming together for the good of the neighborhood that we all have come to love.”
Linda Strums says she loved Nelton Court so much she lived there for 51 years.
“This is home.”
Cohen: Is it sad?
Strums: Yes, it is.
Strums: Because this is home, this is where I was raised at. It’s like, family, everybody was here, and everybody knew each other.
Cohen: But does it need to come down?
Strums: Yes, it does.
Strums: Nelton Court should have been the first place to have been knocked down.
The Hartford Housing Authority says demolition is expected to begin next month. Construction should be done in the winter of 2012.