Sustainable Neighborhoods Program Takes Aim at Blight
By Andy Hart
February 02, 2012
The Livable and Sustainable Neighborhoods Initiative (LSNI) is Mayor Pedro Segarra’s collaborative, methodical approach to stabilizing and improving Hartford neighborhoods through blight reduction and community development.
Separate from, though coordinated with, larger projects and capital improvements; this Initiative focuses less on one big project and more on many smaller projects, such as decaying buildings, broken sidewalks and fences and neglected spaces that need attention if our City is to continue its revitalization.
To bring focus and attention to all of Hartford’s neighborhoods while recognizing funding is limited, the Sustainable Neighborhoods initiative has organized the city into four districts – North, West, Central, and South (see map, page 22).
During the summer of 2011, City Staff including Mayor’s Office, Licensing & Inspections, Planning and Police convened several neighborhood meetings to review, develop and discuss priority-setting and program formulation. Since then, the City Council has appropriated funds for staffing and an additional $2,000,000 for blight reduction and community development projects through LSNI efforts, doubling available funding.
Beginning last summer and completing the work late last year, the Division of Licenses & Inspections completed an initial survey of all 20,000 properties in the City, identifying vacant properties, and those that are potentially blighted, based on criteria laid out in the Anti-Blight Ordinance. Since the start of the new year, four Assistant Building Officials have been brought on board, one inspector to follow up and enforce code violations in each district.
Guided by this survey and neighborhood input, city departments, led by the Office of the Chief Operating Officer, and including Health, Fire, Police, Licenses & Inspections, Planning, Housing, and Constituent Services, are working to assess and address issues with these potentially blighted properties in each district.
The Mayor’s first priority is for LSNI is to enforce the code to ensure that owners properly maintain their property.
If an owner is motivated to remedy violations, but is unable to do so on their own, the City is willing and interested in working with the owner. However, if a property is in violation of City code such as the Anti-Blight Ordinance, and the owner is unwilling to work to correct violations, the City is prepared to take more aggressive action to ensure compliance, up to and including acquisition of the property, eventually working with a new owner.
Additionally, the Department of Public Works is going to be dedicating a Neighborhood Initiative crew in each district to pay extra attention to the condition of public spaces and, when necessary, conduct property cleanups.
Finally, the City of Hartford is counting on commitment and participation from stakeholders in the neighborhoods. You can call 311 to report a pothole or illegal dumping, or a broken sidewalk. In addition, you can get involved with your NRZ; you can work with your NRZ to organize a spring cleanup; or maybe, you just want to organize a barbeque or pot luck supper to meet some neighbors you don’t yet know.
Livable and Sustainable Neighborhoods are about the little things.