SEYMOUR — The town of Seymour will receive $375,000 to make the downtown area compliant with the American with Disabilities Act (ADA). The money is part of $5 million awarded to 13 Connecticut municipalities to develop and/or improve town commercial districts to attract small businesses, grow jobs and improve pedestrian access and livability in town centers. The Seymour plan calls for replacing trees whose roots are displacing the sidewalks. Funds will also be used to replacing lighting fixtures that are 20 years old and inefficient, saving the town an estimated 77 percent in energy costs.

 MILFORD — The Milford Bank is sponsoring a drive to collect items for victim-support packages by the Rape Crisis Center of Milford. Donated items may be dropped off at any bank office through September 30. Items needed include lightweight pants, sweat pants, elastic-waist shorts, sweatshirts, T-shirts, white low-cut socks and underwear all in sizes, especially large and extra-large. Also, flip flops, comb/brush sets, toothbrush/toothpaste set, water, Gatorade, individual tissue packs, small hand sanitizer, and individual snacks like granola bars or crackers.

The mission of the Rape Crisis Center of Milford (which also serves Ansonia, Derby, Orange, Seymour, Shelton and West Haven) is to eliminate violence and sexual assault through education and prevention and to empower victims to regain control of their lives.


NAUGATUCK — Ion Insurance Corp. will relocate its headquarters to a larger and more visible location in downtown Naugatuck next month, the company has announced. The company will move from its current location at 270 Church Street to new digs at 24 Cherry Street, announced David Rotatori, president of Ion Insurance and chief financial officer of Ion Bank, the insurance agency’s sister company. At 5,000 square feet, the new location will provide the company with a 21-percent increase in usable office space, he said.

Ion Insurance also last month acquired Drescher Insurance of Cheshire (see story this issue).

 Proposed fare increases draw scrutiny

HARTFORD — Some Connecticut commuters might have to dig deeper into their wallets to get to work if the Metropolitan Transportation Authority realizes proposed fare increases. Gov. Dannel P. Malloy expressed his dismay with the proposal, especially in light of MTA’s assertion that it has realized a savings on expenses.

In July, MTA released its proposed 2015 budget and four-year financial plan, which included fare increases in 2015 and 2017. In a letter dated August 14 to MTA Chairman and CEO Thomas F. Prendergast, Malloy said Connecticut’s 2015 budget assumes no fare increases for Metro North’s New Haven line.

“It should go without saying that Connecticut expects Metro North to control expenses and to live within the adopted budget for 2015,” Malloy wrote. The governor also demanded an accounting of MTA’s reported expense savings.

“In the financial plan released last week,” Malloy wrote, “the MTA touts significant expense savings, but calls for fare increases in 2015 and 2017 that could impact the New Haven line. Those points don’t seem to add up. I would like a full accounting of Connecticut’s share of the proposed savings that were reported in the budget plan. Please provide the requested information to Commissioner James Redeker of the Connecticut Department of Transportation.

The MTA noted in a release dated July 28 that although it expects to save $1.3 billion in 2015 and $1.5 billion in 2017, it also faces whopping labor-cost increases over the next several years.

In addition to governing public transportation in southeastern New York, MTA is under contract with the Connecticut Department of Transportation to provide service lines in New Haven and Fairfield counties. Those lines are major sources of transportation to and from work for in-state Connecticut commuters and Connecticut residents who work in New York.

For example, Metro North’s New Haven rail line originates in New Haven and culminates at Grand Central Station, New York City. A typical route includes stops in Milford, Bridgeport, Norwalk and Stamford, among other cities. A single one-way peak-time adult ticket for the entire route — from New Haven to New York — currently costs $21.50 if purchased before boarding. (The on-board one-way fare is $28.) Riders also have the option of purchasing multi-trip passes at discounted rates.

Among upcoming MTA expenses, according to the four-year financial plan, is a negotiated settlement with labor that amounts to a $260 million yearly increase, on average, for labor costs. Expenses also will include “a series of investments in new service, improved service quality and enhanced safety for customers and employees,” according to the MTA.

Among other delineated MTA expenses include $20 million annually for new subway, bus and commuter railroad service; $125 million between 2015 and 2018 for new maintenance and operational necessities; and $363 million for employee, customer and public safety investments.

 

 From Ditch Corner to Goatville, recalling the Elm City’s rich (and sometimes not-so-rich) history

 

Those of us who live in or were born in New Haven can easily tick off the names of the neighborhoods everyone knows: The Hill, Westville, Fair Haven, Newhallville, East Rock, Morris Cove, to name a few. Also included are Amity, Beaver Hill, Dwight, Brookside, Wooster Square and Broadway. The number of modern-day neighborhoods and historic districts lies somewhere between 30 and 65, depending on whom you ask and where you’re standing when you do the asking.

This is not a definitive story about these forgotten neighborhoods because back in the early days of the colony, nearly every corner was a neighborhood or area named after someone famous or dead. But when you do a little research and look at a few historic maps, that’s when the “forgotten” neighborhoods appear, bringing with them a new understanding of just how steeped in history the Elm City remains.

No such research can be undertaken without a trip to the Whitney Library and its archives, located inside the New Haven Museum, where reside 30,000 printed works, 300 manuscript collections and countless maps and drawings that document the life of the city that was founded in 1638 by Rev. John Davenport and Theophilus Eaton, the latter of whom was the stepfather of Elihu Yale and — well, it quickly becomes easy to see how this is all intertwined.

Thanks to the work of several writers, including Doris B. (Deb) Townshend, Robert M. Lattanzi and Colin Caplan, one can discover the origins of these forgotten neighborhoods, the way of life in the early days of this seafaring colony and the origins of the city’s street names and neighborhoods.

For example, City Point still is referred to by locals who live there as Oyster Point or Oyster Point Quarter, harkening back to the oyster fishing industry that once was based there, now removed to the Quinnipiac River area (or “Dragon” as it was known in the 19th century. If you left the Quarter and traveled west, you’d come upon Sodom Hill, later named Mount Pleasant and now known as “The Hill.”

Travel down Congress Avenue to Congress Circle (or Square), near George and Church streets, and you’ll be in the Oak Street area, host to newly arrived ethnicities including Irish, Jewish and Italian immigrants a century ago. Head east and up Columbus Avenue to the Six Corners neighborhood, also bounded by Hallock Street, Dewitt Street and Washington Avenue. You’d be a stone’s throw away from the Suburb’s Quarter and Mr. Lamberton’s Quarter, having never stepped out of the modern-day Hill neighborhood.

Heading toward downtown, you might cross through the Thompson Square neighborhood, named in the 1860s after a Mr. Thompson (obviously). This later became Spireworth Square and, yet later, was renamed Trowbridge Square. Nearby you’d find possibly the oldest building in New Haven at 198 North Front Street, owned by the Fargeorge family back in the 1600s.

Sailing into the mouth of the Quinnipiac River, known as the Neck and then Dragon in the early 1800s, you might have agreed with Capt. Richard Russell when he passed through Clamville and looked upon the west side riverbanks, noting it was a “Fayre-Haven,” while the Farms and Waterside occupied the east bank of Dragon.

Farther up the river, the Hemingway family farmed their property, known as Quinnipiac Meadows. And where the Mill River joined Dragon, you’d find Grapevine Point and the Barnesville Hotel, located in Barnesville. Moving toward the East Shore, one would find Woodwardtown near the intersection of Main Street, Quinnipiac Avenue and Forbes Avenue.

Wooster Square wasn’t always the namesake of Revolutionary War hero Gen. David Wooster. Once known as Oyster Shell Field, it later become known as New Township Park (the neighborhood that arose to the east of the original nine squares was known as New Township), and finally Wooster Square, says Colin Caplan, a New Haven native who has written five books about the city and operates “Taste of New Haven,” whose mission it is to educate visitors to the city on its food, culture and history.

“Slineyville was an Irish neighborhood located in an area near Barnesville and close to what we now call Wooster Square,” explains Caplan. “It was named for a man named John Sliney. It was kind of like a slum for poor workers who lived on the outskirts of town in the early to mid-1800s. There was even a Sliney’s Corner, at the corner of Chapel and Chestnut streets.

“Not too far from that in the same time period was an area called New Guinea,” Caplan continues. “That was part of William Lanson’s development; [he] was a runaway slave. He became a contractor in the city and the only person who devised a way to extend Long Wharf into the longest wharf in the country [jutting approximately three-quarters of a mile out into New Haven Harbor] at that time. He developed New Guinea and also New Liberia, located near Green and East streets, a black and Irish neighborhood.”

Caplan says Hell’s Alley, located at the top of Beaver Pond Park, lived up to its name.

 

“It was on the border with Hamden,” says Caplan. “In the late 1800s to early 1900s, the newspapers mention it as a kind of scary romantic area. It’s what we now know as Cherry Ann Street in Hamden. There was a shanty village of largely Polish families. Conditions were reported as deplorable and there were knife fights and murders. It was cleared when the city developed Beaver Pond Park.”

“Let’s not forget Goatsville on upper State Street near where Route 80 is now,” says Joe Taylor, a well-known local researcher and city historian. “And before we had Westville, it was known as Hotchkisstown, named after the Hotchkiss family that lived out in that area.” Farther on up the western bank of upper West River, now known as Amity, there existed Chestnut Hill, a farming community.

The Broadway District, now a popular shopping mecca with exclusive and unique shops developed by Yale University, wasn’t always that glamorous a location.

“The area where Broadway now is located was a small busy commercial zone because of all the roads that converged down there that created a small business district,” adds Caplan. “It was an early dense area of commerce. Before it was called ‘Broadway,’ it was referred to as Ditch Corner. But the actual Ditch Corner, which is an old term going back to the 1680s, refers to a ditch that was dug between Beaver Pond and a creek, which later was known as the Farmington Canal. They dug the ditch to try to reverse the flow of Beaver Pond into the old creek to create a new mill closer to town. The corner to which we refer was that of Goffe and Orchard streets, the old way out of town. That corner was the site of a big battle in 1779 between the British and American troops.”

Next time you’re shopping on Broadway, glance northward toward that intersection and imagine that, only a few hundred years ago, people were fighting over our independence and not haggling over the price of a new pair of shoes.

 

In today’s economy, many believe transportation infrastructure is destiny. If true, West Haven’s long-awaited Metro North station, which became a reality in summer 2013, will help propel that city forward as its serves the new and growing needs of the University of New Haven and the West Campus of Yale University.

The station is situated on Sawmill Road between Hood Terrace and Railroad Avenue and has more than 650 commuter parking spaces.

Passengers are served by Metro North’s New Haven Line and Shore Line East trains. A decade in the making, the $80 million project has two 12-car platforms, a station building, a pedestrian bridge and rebuilt track.

 Area entrepreneurs find success designing and selling eco-friendly fashions

 

 

When last we encountered Kate Harrison, she recounted how difficult it had been to find environmentally conscious vendors to service her wedding back in 2007. That led Harrison to publish her own manual to help like-minded brides-to-be seeking to plan a “green” wedding.

 

Harrison’s saga (BNH, June 2013) is not unlike those of others who have a personal commitment to a sustainable lifestyle, but at times find the marketplace affords too few choices. Their solution is to establish their own green enterprises. When it comes to fashion and accessories, that commitment can evolve into a business for some.

 

Take the husband-and-wife owners of Funkoos organic baby clothes, for instance. The pair started the business when they sought organic clothes for their children, but found no stores selling them.

 

“We started Funkoos in 2009, after we had our twin boys,” says co-owner Chandra Sittiraju. “We were looking for good-quality organic clothing with cute designs that was difficult to find. Many of the big-store brands were organic but not of high quality. This inspired us to create our own brand.”

 

Once the decision was made to start their own business, the couple sought out high-quality materials and suppliers, says Sittiraju.

 

“All our products are created from 100-percent certified organic cotton, and all the manufacturing processes adhere to Global Organic Textile Standards,” says Sittiraju, adding, “We only work with suppliers who carry GOTS certification. All suppliers are not equipped to deliver the high quality we mandate. Over a period of time we have identified strong suppliers we work with, who understand our quality needs and are able to deliver what we need.”

 

For Cara Stimmel, proprietor of Fern Street Designs by Cara Stimmel, committing to quality also entails committing to local artisans who (re)create the eco-friendly jewelry she sells.

 

“I work with people in my Hartford area — at colleges or mothers who have children, for instance,” Stimmel says. Stimmel specializes in “recycled, repurposed and reused” fashion pieces. When she looks at old watch pieces, for example, she can see a brand new object.

 

“A gear from a watch, or something that has beautiful angles, I repurpose it into more of a contemporary feel,” Stimmel explains. Stimmel’s pieces are of the “Steampunk” genre, a category of vintage jewelry that evokes the look of jewelry popular during the industrial revolution of the 19th century.

 

Stimmel turned to creating her own repurposed jewelry after working in the traditional  jewelry manufacturing industry. She became dismayed by some of the industry practices, such as the use of toxic materials and off-shore manufacturing. In addition to dealing with local artisans, Stimmel goes to area flea markets and tag sales to find items that she then repurposes.

 

“It’s fun just trying to repurpose [an item] into something else,” she says. For example, she notes, an old watch can be turned into a charm bracelet.  “It has to strike the person looking at the object to say, ‘I appreciate the beauty for what it is as opposed to what it was.’”

 

Similarly, items that MaryLynne Boisvert  carries through her business, Bethany Homecrafts, are repurposed — or, as she prefers to describe them, “upcycled.”

 

“My concentration is on repurposing,” says Boisvert of her Bristol-based company. “I try to use natural, breathable fibers.

 

“I repurpose wool sweaters and cotton knits and some silks” as well as other materials. “So, that’s what is already in existence, but they can have a whole new life. What I do is, I rescue things from thrift stores.”

 

Boisvert’s commitment also extends to the care, as wells as the “afterlife” of her products.

 

“Everything goes through the wash,” she says. “I use all-natural laundry detergent. I don’t use the dryer. Everything is hung on a clothesline.

 

“All [material] scraps,” Boisvert adds, “get saved. They get donated [to animal shelters and dog-training facilities] for dog beds.”

 

 

 

 Mercedes Zarate takes a global approach to her five-year-old eco-friendly business, Ink Arts. Products include children’s apparel, purses and handbags, and sweaters made of alpaca.

 

“At the beginning we started introducing Peruvian products, eco-friendly jewelry, natural 100-percent cotton clothing and alpaca sweaters and accessories,” explains Zarate, who is based in Simsbury.

 

“I buy items that I like, that are different, unique and not easy to find — a conversation piece. So far people like what I am selling and they compliment them. Of course, I have items that only sell in craft shows, not at the store, which are the eco-friendly jewelry. They are made out of seed, fish scales, coconut and bull’s horn.”

 

Peruvian native Zarate was inspired to open her business after taking a trip to her native land in 2008.

 

“My admiration for the Incan culture made me realize that Peru has a lot to offer, with its diverse historical culture and diverse natural resources found with the three regions -- the Coast with the Pacific Ocean, the Highlands with its beautiful landscape and natural fruits and vegetables, and the jungle, with the Amazon River that is considered the jewelry box [of the region] because of the native primitive tribes and the amazing fauna.

 

“One of our popular products,” adds Zarate, “is the Alpaca sweaters and accessories. Therefore, our best-selling time of the year is winter. The alpaca fiber is soft and it is strong. It lasts longer than cashmere and it is an eco-friendly material. It was recycled and it is environmentally safe.”

 

Like many green enterprises, Zarate endeavors to give and/or give back to communities and environments through her products.

 

“I have preferences and guidelines when purchasing new items,” she says. “I like to give a chance to all non-profit organizations, like [fair-trade organization] SERRV and Call to Care Uganda. Their products are handmade from renewable materials and they help groups in need of financial help for food or school supplies. I prefer to work with third-world countries because I know what poverty is.”

 

So, is eco-friendly fashion an easy sell?

 

“Through these [past] five years I have built a small group of eco-friendly customers,” says Zarete. “This year we are adding more novelties and local handcrafted items. Customers like to support local artists/crafters. I learned that word of mouth is what is keeping me alive — but it takes a long time for the word to spread out.

 

“People are getting more conscious in protecting the environment and looking for products that are sustainable and environment-friendly,” Zarate adds. “But we are still far to get everybody involved in this lifestyle. That is why [it] is hard to sell some eco-friendly products. [Many consumers] are accustomed to mass-production items a way of living since the industrial revolution.”

 

For some, says Chandra Sittiraju, it’s a matter of going with convenience.

 

“Our personal belief is that these products are better for us consumers, as well as our environment. I think when it comes to apparel, it’s a harder sell than organic food,” she says. “Lots of times, organic is just a ‘nice-to-have’ and not a ‘must-have’ for most customers. [Therefore] we have to make sure our eco-friendly products have appealing designs, superior quality and are in the right price range.

 

“There is a segment of eco-friendly parents that is growing,” she adds. “These parents are happy to go the organic route for their babies, but it’s always not the case when they buy clothing for themselves.”

 

Being an online business has essentially helped business, says Sittiraju.

 

“We have evolved consistently [over the past five years],” she says. “We have invested smartly in technology and are perhaps one of the few apparel brands that have automated most aspects of our business.”

 

The automation has helped the company fulfill orders, an operational function that was sluggish and a “time killer” in the beginning, she acknowledges.

 

“In order to turn this weakness into strength, we smartly automated our distribution by partnering with Amazon,” she explains. “This distribution strategy helped us deliver unmatched customer experience by leveraging on Amazon’s core competency. This allowed us to focus on aspects of the business that we needed to focus on. Our co-founder, Sameer Joshi, is a strong believer in technology and was instrumental in getting this implemented.

 

"This distribution model also helped the us enter the European Union market by sitting here in Southbury, Connecticut,” adds Sittiraju. “For EU markets, our products are warehoused in Amazon’s United Kingdom warehouse, from where we service 26 European Union countries. In U.S., our products are warehoused across Amazon U.S. warehouses.”

 

With the online model, the company broke even “very quickly,” asserts Sittiraju. “This allowed us to run our business as a real start-up with very little overhead. Through the online model, we were able to sell our products across all major continents.”

 

But there was a downside to the online model. Large numbers of customers placed small orders — as opposed to the store model, where a small number of stores place large orders, Sittiraju explains. But she says the advantages outweigh the disadvantages. And she foresees even more growth for the company and its eco-friendly products  in the near future.

 

“One solid advantage that online sales model provided was the confidence in our strategy, our product and our thinking,” says Sittiraju. “We know if we enter retail chains, as we are planning to do in next 12 months, we will be able to make Funkoos a household name in this segment.”

 

$20 million deal advances diversification of Elm City energy firm

 

NEW HAVEN — UIL Holdings Corp., parent of the United Illuminating Co., has purchased a 14.6-million gallon liquefied natural gas (LNG) storage facility and related assets in Milford from subsidiaries of Iberdrola USA, Inc. for approximately $20 million.

UIL consummated the purchase through its subsidiary on July 31. The Milford facility is operated by the Southern Connecticut Gas Co., which UIL acquired from Iberdrola in 2010 as part of a larger deal that also included Connecticut Natural Gas Corp. and the Berkshire Gas Co.

“Our natural-gas supply system is designed to provide gas to firm customers under all weather conditions, and it works,” said James P. Torgerson, UIL Holdings’ president and CEO. “This transaction is another prudent investment we are making to ensure we meet customers’ demands now but is inclusive of our growing customer base.”

The UIL Holdings’ gas-supply portfolio now includes three liquefied natural gas plants.  Besides the plant in Milford, the other two facilities are in Rocky Hill and Whately, Mass. Combined, these two other facilities have a storage capacity of more than 14.6 million gallons for liquefied natural gas.  This LNG diversification presents another supply option that can be utilized in times of high demand.

Liquefied natural gas traditionally is used to supplement natural gas supplies, particularly during the peak periods of winter. Liquefied natural gas is stored in specially designed facilities. When it is needed, the liquefied gas is heated, converted to vapor and injected into distribution pipelines.