Newhallville Marches For Youth Jobs, End to Violence

Ice the Beef Youth’s Carmon calls for a new Newhallville youth center.

Ice the Beef Youth’s Carmon calls for a new Newhallville youth center.

Sunday, September 24, 2017 - Standing alongside the mother of Tyriek B. Keyes, a 14-year-old dancer who was shot dead in Newhallville this summer, Ice the Beef Youth President Chaz Carmon demanded a safe recreational space and better employment opportunities for the neighborhood’s youth.

“In the Hill, they have the Boys and Girls Club,” the local dance group organizer said. “In the Kensington neighborhood, they have the YMCA. In the Foote Street-Dixwell neighborhood, they’re gearing up for the new Q House. In the Goffe Street-Orchard Street neighborhood, they’re gearing up for the new Escape teen center. But what about Newhallville?”

“Some say this is the worst neighborhood in New Haven,” he continued. “I don’t think so. The Ville just needs help. We need to give the Ville a safe space for our youth.”

Such was one of the prevailing messages of the Jobs for Youth / Jobs for All rally that wound its way through Newhallville on Saturday morning, culminating in a series of speeches outside of the former state Department of Social Services (DSS) building at 194 Basset St. That building has been vacant since June 2013, when DSS moved to a new office space at 50 Humphrey St.

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Duncan Rebuilders Vow To Preserve History

The Downtown-Wooster Square Community Management Team.

The Downtown-Wooster Square Community Management Team.

Thursday, September 21, 2017 - The new owners of the the 123-year-old Hotel Duncan promised to preserve many of its historic architectural elements, from its manual-operated elevator to its neon-lit marquee, as it converts the building into an upscale establishment.

On the inside, they aim to reimagine the design of the rooms and lobbies to reflect New Haven history and culture and to create a communal space that is welcoming to both visiting hotel guests and members of the community.

Such was the pitch that Graduate Hotels president Tim Franzen made to the Downtown-Wooster Square Community Management Team on Tuesday night during its monthly meeting on the second floor of City Hall.

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Friday Flicks: PRIDE Version

Tangerine (2015) by Sean Baker

Tangerine (2015) by Sean Baker

Friday, September 15, 2017 - LGBTQ cinema has often been a cinema of outsiders. Which makes sense, considering that mainstream movie culture has long been dominated by a conservative, narrow, and overwhelmingly normative heterosexual understanding of gender and sexual identity.

But in the nearly 50 years since the Stonewall rebellion and the Gay liberation movement of the early 1970s, movies by and about LGBTQ people have flourished as a substantial and diverse subgenre of American cinema. From the experimental, abstract lesbian cinema of Barbara Hammer (Dyketactics) to the lyrical character studies of Ira Sachs (Love is Strange), LGBTQ cinema in this country has and continues to explore life, love, gender, sexuality, and identity, all too often formed in the face of broader societal prejudices.

In celebration of the start of New Haven PRIDE Weekend, here are three recommendations for movies that explore LGBTQ life in this country, focusing on stories and characters that refuse the limitations that American cultural norms around gender and sexual identity may try to foist upon them.

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Harp Crushes Paca 3-1

Kim Edwards, Sarah Ofosu embrace after their primary.

Kim Edwards, Sarah Ofosu embrace after their primary.

By by PAUL BASS, ALLAN APPEL, MARKESHIA RICKS, THOMAS BREEN, & MICHELLE LIU

Wednesday, September 13, 2017 - New Haven Democrats gave an overwhelming vote of confidence Tuesday to Mayor Toni Harp, as she clobbered challenger Marcus Paca in a party primary in which she won all 30 wards in the city.

Final returns showed Harp with 74.5 percent of the vote to Paca’s 25.5 percent. Counting absentee ballots, Harp received 5,788 votes to Paca’s 1,977.

Both camps had anticipated a closer race because of Paca’s energetic campaigning, contrasted with Harp’s lower-key style. Both sides in effect made the primary election a referendum on Harp’s first two terms in office, from her leadership style and budgeting record to her housing and criminal-justice and pro-immigrant policies.

Movie Review: The Death of Stalin

What happens when you bring together a group of men with no morals, no empathy, no sense of justice, fairness, dignity, or common good [i.e. sociopaths] and tell them that one has a shot at being the next leader of a world superpower?

And what if those men had the maturity and attention span of toddlers, barely competent enough to tie their own shoelaces?

A tragedy played as a farce, uproariously funny, if you can look past the bodies piling up outside the door.

The Death of Stalin, the latest political satire from writer-director Armando Iannucci (In the Loop, Veep), tells the story of a handful of Soviet party leaders scrambling to succeed Josef Stalin as the leader of the USSR in the weeks following the dictator’s death in Moscow in 1953.

Nikita Khrushchev (Steve Buscemi), Lavrentiy Beria (Simon Russell Beale), Georgy Malenkov (Jeffrey Tambor), and the rest of the goons who make up the leadership committee of the Soviet Union’s Communist Party are all thrown into a state of great inner turmoil and excitement when the unthinkable happens: their omnipotent leaders kicks the bucket.

Each sees an opportunity to become the next party leader, and a long history of kowtowing to every whim of the recently deceased dictator let's each know that being party leader comes with pretty absolute fealty and authority, however underserved and arbitrarily wielded.

Let the fumbling, maneuvering, and conniving begin!

Courtesy of TIFF

Courtesy of TIFF

The great accomplishment of Iannucci’s screenplay and of his tremendous ensemble of comedic actors is that The Death of Stalin establishes from the start how these men are completely inept and uninterested in every aspect of life and leadership, except for one thing: winning. Their political intelligence extends not much further than “obey the leader, no matter what he says,” but not because they believe in what he's saying. Rather, it's because they recognize that the man on top has won the right to say and do whatever he likes, and attention must be paid, to respect that victory… and to lay the groundwork for your own assured rise to power.

Law, history, judgment, and ideals be damned: what's important is loyalty, to your own interests first and to your boss’s demands. Hopefully those two coincide, or else you may be in trouble.

The problem, of course, with such absolute self-interest mixed with confusion and deceit is that everyone is loyal, but no one can be trusted.

A master of politically insightful and vulgar slapstick, Iannucci packs the movie with gag after gag that reveals just how little these people think of one another, and how much they think of themselves.

Kneeling over Stalin's prostrate body, each leader weeps and weeps, until they realize that the great dead leader is lying in a puddle of his own piss, in which case it's time to find a better spot to mourn.

They frantically court Stalin's spoiled adult children Vasily (Rupert Friend) and Svetlana (Andrea Riseborough), but struggle to sound convincing as they praise an alcoholic nincompoop (who may have been responsible for the death of the entire national hockey team) and reassure a stubborn worrywart with an exacting eye for interior design.

But The Death of Stalin is not just a movie about fumbling morons who can't keep their stories straight. It's about fumbling morons who can't keep their stories straight who are also willing to kill untold thousands of people, family and friends included, if that slaughter may help their chances to win the game.

Peale plays Beria as the most openly sadistic of the bunch, carefully compiling execution lists of "dissidents" (i.e. random people deemed threatening to the regime because of their sanity or professional competence), while also delighting in his own participation in mass rape, torture, and abuse. But they are all implicated, even Khrushchev, the most quirkily avuncular of the bunch who is willing to sacrifice the lives of thousands of civilians to make his rival look bad. And, of course, he is the one to win in the end, however ephemeral that victory may be.

Watching a coterie of self-obsessed sycophants lavishly praise the authoritarian leader of the moment while simultaneously plotting their own rise to power, one can't help but think of the Donald Trump administration.

But the politicians and generals at the center of The Death of Stalin are not the colorful, offensive, non-sensical Scaramuccis of the world.

They are the back room manipulators: too public facing and approval seeking to be a secretive cabal, too dishonest and authoritarian to be coherent or publicly accountable. They are the comic fools whose ineptitude, ego, and destructiveness are all of a piece. Fortunately for the political elite in STALIN, they don't have to worry about getting voted out of office. They just have to worry, constantly, about being toppled by their own colleagues, friends, and confidants

Movie Review: The Florida Project

Saturday, September 8, 2017 - 

Telling a story from the perspective of a child can be a tricky thing to do. One must drop the artifice, social acclimation, worldliness, world-weariness, and slightly larger vocabulary that come with adulthood, and reach for something a little bit different. Not simpler, per se, but more guileless and open.

The Florida Project, the latest movie from writer-director Sean Baker, captures perfectly that childlike eagerness to revel in the present, to find here and now’s endless capacity for laughter and joy without any sort of pretense.

For Moonee (Brooklyn Pierce), Scooty (Christopher Rivera), and Jancey (Valeria Cotto), summer days blend seamlessly together as they share ice cream, taunt adults, and explore the furthermost reaches of their neighborhood.

But Baker, whose previous movie Tangerine focused on a competitive friendship between two transgender prostitutes working the seedier side of the Hollywood strip, is not interested in an idyllic childhood summer experienced by the bored and the comfortable.

Rather, The Florida Project is another story about vibrant, incandescent outsiders living on the razor’s edge of poverty.

Courtesy of TIFF

Courtesy of TIFF

Moonee, Scooty, and Jancey live with their single moms and single grandmas in pay-by-the-week motels on the outskirts of Orlando, Florida. For these three kids, who can't be older than five or six, getting ice cream means walking blocks through empty strip mall parking lots and then shaking down nearby customers for loose change; taunting adults means joyfully spitting on the cars of strangers and then flipping them off when they demand that the kids stop; and exploring the neighborhood means swinging irons bars and lighting fires in an abandoned condo complex crumbling under the weight of its mold, debris, and decay.

After a particularly dangerous bit of summer fun leads Scooty’s mom to pull her son from Moonee’s company, both to keep him safe and to reduce the likelihood of a visit from the Department of Children and Families, Moonee spends more and more of her summer with her unemployed mom, Halley (Bria Vinaite).

An ornately tattooed, twentysomething beauty who spends most of her time chainsmoking in her pajamas over the third-story rail of the hotel, Halley shares Moonee’s exuberance, spontaneity, and indifference to the future, and is clearly the source of her gleeful profanity and unwavering hostility to authority.

But Halley is also an adult and a parent, and her stubborn insistence on enjoying the present, no matter the depths of her love for Moonee, have consequences that far outweigh any trouble that her daughter may get in while playing with her friends around the edges of the hotel.

In setting this story of childhood ebullience in a rundown hotel on the outskirts of Orlando, in the heart of a knockoff economy that thrives off of its proximity to Disneyworld, Baker conjures a powerful juxtaposition between the most artificial, commercialized, grotesque fantasies of adults and the more authentic, imaginative, carefree play of children.

To Moonee and her friends, the giant wizards, purple castles, and sickly, oversized marketing displays that define their built surroundings are just part of the backdrop for a world abundant with the promise of cheap pleasures. But for these children, those pleasures are supplemented by a fantasyland they are able to create wherever they are, regardless of the lack of money in their pockets.

Baker and cinematographer Alexis Zabe follow the children with tracking shots low enough to the ground that the audience feels like it too is in on the play, and that this play is not just about fun, but about taking ownership over their surroundings and their time. When Baker and Zabe step back for a wideshot of the bright-purple hotel in all its communal, doorfront activity, the place bustles like a living dollhouse out of a Wes Anderson movie.

But this is not a dollhouse, and the similarities between Moonee’s and Halley’s experience of the summer disturb as much as they delight.

One of the more effervescent scenes in the movie sees Halley, Mooney, and Jancey hitchhike miles from their hotel at night so that they can find a dark place to sit, sing happy birthday to Jancey, eat birthday cupcakes, and watch the fireworks explode over Disneyworld. “These fireworks are just for you,” Halley tells Jancey, and everyone at that moment believes it.

There’s a wonder and a beauty to such a personal reclaiming of an impersonal, commercial spectacle. But Halley’s inability to break through her own self-delusions grates violently against her inability to provide a stable and safe life for her and her child. By the end of the movie, the fantasies that both Halley and Mooney retreat to are no longer the ones governed by the delights of the imagination, but by fear and desperation to flee an inescapable reality.

Friday Flicks: TIFF 2017, Day 1

MUDBOUND (Courtesy of TIFF)

MUDBOUND (Courtesy of TIFF)

Friday, September 8, 2017 - Day One at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF), and I find myself entangled in movies that explore the seemingly endless capacity people have for inflicting harm on one another. Deliberately, sadistically, sometimes with understandable motivations, but all too often for no good reason at all.

TIFF is a sprawling 11-day, 340-movie film festival that includes everything from Hollywood prestige pictures to low-budget indies to obscure international arthouse cinema. No one critic can catch every screening on any given day, so please take this post as reflective of one particular critic’s experience at the festival thus far.

That said, the movies that I saw Thursday were rife with violence. Not gratuitous, shoot-em-up, summer-blockbuster-backdrop carnage, but violence central to the development of each story and to the relationships between each characters. Violence used to understand and comment upon American race relations, global terrorism, the resurgence of white supremacism, trauma-induced-revenge fantasies, and even the arbitrary tyranny with which some parents rule over their children.

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City Says No To Pesticides

Wednesday, September 6, 2017 - You can still legally use toxic chemicals to keep your lawns green — but now the city officially would rather that you not.

Such was one of the decisions of the Board of Alders on Tuesday night, when it voted unanimously during a regular meeting at City Hall to approve a resolution in support of the voluntary non-use of pesticides and synthetic fertilizers on lawns and gardens in New Haven.

The nonbinding resolution recommends that residents first consider the health and environmental consequences of such actions with the hope that more people will choose safer lawn care alternatives instead.

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Friday Flicks: Patti Cake$

PATTI CAKE$ (2017)

PATTI CAKE$ (2017)

Friday, September 1, 2017 - Patti Cake$ is first and foremost a movie about a daughter and a mother: two women separated by age, alcohol, and resentment, bound together by blood, love, and music. Well, two very different kinds of music.

In writer-director Geremy Jasper’s new low-budget hip hop drama, Danielle Macdonald plays Patti Dombrowski, a 23-year-old New Jersey bartender who mixes drinks at night, looks after her ailing grandmother during the day, and spends the rest of her waking hours writing and spitting rhymes. 

On the street, bullies and hustlers mock her weight by calling her Dumbo. But in her notebooks, at the microphone, and behind the wheel of her aging Cadillac (custom license plate PATTIWGN), Patti goes by another name: Killer P.

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What Will Make Bradley & State Safe?

Intersection of Bradley and State Streets.

Intersection of Bradley and State Streets.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017 - Daphne Geismar has lived on Bradley Street since 2001, and has personally witnessed at least three car crashes at the intersection of Bradley and State.

She has been petitioning the city for over a decade to improve the safety of that intersection.

With a renewed commitment from the city’s transportation department and the support of her South of Humphrey Street (SoHu) neighbors, Geismar may see a safer intersection in the not-too-distant future.

Traffic safety at Bradley and State Streets was one of the focal points of this month’s East Rock Community Management Team meeting, held on Monday night at the mActivity gym on Niccoll Street.

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Harp, Sanctuary Policy Get Senator’s Endorsement

Harp introduces Blumenthal at endorsement.

Harp introduces Blumenthal at endorsement.

Monday, August 28, 2017 - Two Connecticut politicians who have ardently defended New Haven’s status as a sanctuary city promised supporters that they would continue to protect local immigrants from what they see as unjust federal orders of deportation.

That promise came from Mayor Toni Harp and U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal at a reelection campaign event Saturday.

Around 50 local politicians, labor organizers, and New Haveners gathered in a small classroom at the New Haven Federation of Teachers Union Hall at 267 Chapel St. to see Blumenthal as he formally endorsed Harp in her bid for a third two-year term as mayor of New Haven.

Harp faces challenger Marcus Paca in a Democratic Party primary on Sept. 12.

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Friday Flicks: Wind River

Elizabeth Olsen and Jeremy Renner in WIND RIVER (2017)

Elizabeth Olsen and Jeremy Renner in WIND RIVER (2017)

Friday, August 25, 2017 - The Western as a genre has long celebrated hard-scrabble men who can squint into the distance and distill the workings of the world into a single, pithy phrase.

“When the legend becomes fact, print the legend,” says a frustrated newspaperman towards the end of The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962), relenting before the heroic, whitewashed image of a popular politician.

“In this world there’s two kinds of people,” Clint Eastwood’s Blondie explains to his unarmed opponent as they search for buried treasure in The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly (1966). “Those with loaded guns and those who dig.”

In Westerns, these carefully placed aphorisms tend to shed as much light on the characters who speak them as on the world they seek to describe. For these cigarillo-chomping vigilantes, the world is understandable, but fatalistic and unforgiving. The best and only way to survive is to follow the rules obediently, however painful and merciless they may be.

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Concrete Revelations

Hopkins describes some of the architectural details of Church Street South.

Hopkins describes some of the architectural details of Church Street South.

Monday, August 21, 2017 - Jonathan Hopkins stood on a grassy hill overlooking a nearly vacant housing complex and pointed out some of its buildings’ distinguishing architectural characteristics.

A mixture of smooth and rough concrete blocks at the end walls mimicked a Colonial brick feature called quoining. The two-over-two double-hung windows with lintels and protruding cornices recalled a popular type of Georgian window design. The individual staircases and private outdoor spaces provided a modicum of privacy for tenants when the 301-unit complex was more fully occupied.

This coherent and innovative architectural design is still visible, Hopkins argued, if you look closely at the buildings themselves that comprise Church Street South, the notorious subsidized housing complex near Union Station that has been almost completely vacated after decades of mismanagement, crime, and neglect have reduced the complex to a dangerous state of disrepair for its recently-evacuated, low-income tenants.

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An Archive Of Movie Madness

Upson pulling CED VideoDiscs at The Archive. (Thomas Breen photos)

Upson pulling CED VideoDiscs at The Archive. (Thomas Breen photos)

Friday, August 18, 2017 - Brandon Upson lifted an LP-sized plastic case of Clint Eastwood’s 1965 Western For A Few Dollars More as he explained the brief history of the CED VideoDisc.

“This is the last analog format,” he said, recalling all the time and money that the electronics company RCA supposedly invested in developing a disc-shaped video format that could be read physically with a stylus. The CED was phenomenally unsuccessful, and RCA discontinued production of the discs and their players in the mid-1980s, just a few years after they went to market.

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Right Space, Team To Make A Movie

Gavin, Blau, and Marra on set at Lyric Hall.

Gavin, Blau, and Marra on set at Lyric Hall.

Monday, July 31, 2017 - The cameras were in focus, the actors in position, the lights and furniture in the antique barroom rearranged in preparation for the next scene of the movie.

But just as the various players on the set were about to launch into their respective roles, 9-year-old non-professional actor and assistant-director-for-the-day Isaac Blau shouted out to the group, “Wait, wait, wait! I forgot to say, ‘Action!’”

Director Anna Marra smiled at Blau and flashed a wink towards the cast and crew as she said, “Of course, you are right. Thank you so much, Isaac. Where would we be without you?”

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City Prepares For More Floods

Water resources consultant Murphy with a FEMA Flood Insurance Rate Map (FIRM) of downtown New Haven.

Water resources consultant Murphy with a FEMA Flood Insurance Rate Map (FIRM) of downtown New Haven.

Friday, July 21, 2017 - Anticipating higher sea levels, harsher hurricanes, and more frequent floods in the not-too-distant future as a result of climate change, officials are embarking on an outreach campaign to inform residents in flood-prone neighborhoods about how best to protect themselves against the threat of rising water.

They are also pointing residents to a 15 percent, nationally-subsidized discount on flood insurance that New Haveners are now eligible for thanks to the city’s recent efforts to bolster and protect its floodplains.

The latest stop on the city’s floodplain awareness tour came this past Tuesday night, as City Plan Department staffer Susmitha Attota and water resources planning consultant David Murphy presented background information and flood protection tips to the Downtown-Wooster Square Community Management Team (DWSCMT) during its regular monthly meeting at City Hall.

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Paca: I’m Like Yates; Harp’s Like Trump

Paca lambastes Harp administration at DTC candidate forum on Saturday.

Paca lambastes Harp administration at DTC candidate forum on Saturday.

Saturday, July 15, 2017 - 

Is New Haven a stable city that has become safer, more responsibly governed, and more attuned to the needs of its students and workers over the past four years? Or is it barely treading water, rife with violence and unemployment, led by a mayoral administration bent on political retaliation and deceit?

Mayor Toni Harp said the former, and her challenger for the Democratic mayoral nomination, Marcus Paca, offered the latter view as they pitched their candidacies Saturday morning to 60 party leaders during a forum held by Democratic Town Committee (DTC) on the steps outside the Betsy Ross Parish House on Kimberly Avenue.

Holmes Passes The Baton

Decker, Holmes at Thursday night’s announcement.

Decker, Holmes at Thursday night’s announcement.

Friday, July 14, 2017 - 

A political science graduate student who already doubles as a zoning commissioner and a union organizer is looking to pick up the batons of criminal justice reform and community engagement from an East Rock alder who has decided not to run for reelection.

The grad student, Charles Decker, a sixth-year Yale PhD candidate in political science who also serves on the Board of Zoning Appeals (BZA) and has been one of the leading organizers of Yale’s graduate teacher union UNITE HERE Local 33, formally launched his Democratic campaign to become the next alder for East Rock’s Ward 9 on Thursday night from his campaign treasurer’s apartment at Orange Street and Bishop Street.

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Millennial Takes Downtown-Wooster Helm

New management team chair Smith: Next-generation civic leader.

New management team chair Smith: Next-generation civic leader.

Thursday, June 29, 2017 - When Caroline Smith first moved to New Haven from Lexington, Kentucky, she would never have defined herself by her relationship to a city.

Seven years later, Smith has become nearly synonymous with the city she proudly calls home. The energy, enthusiasm, ambition, and kindness that she brings to each of her community-building endeavors have made her a familiar face to residents throughout New Haven.

“I never thought about cities as an entity that you could form identity around until New Haven,” Smith told the Independent during a recent interview at Whole G Cafe on Orange Street. Smith, 24, first moved to New Haven to attend Yale as an undergraduate, and is now the the co-director of marketing at the local tech start-up SeeClickFix.

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Sensing Momentum, Ralliers Eye Single-Payer

Protesters at a healthcare rally on Wednesday night.

Protesters at a healthcare rally on Wednesday night.

Thursday, June 29, 2017 - Over 100 health care activists rallied in New Haven Wednesday evening — because, they said, protest is working.

From 5:30 to 7 p.m. on Wednesday afternoon, women and men from across Connecticut gathered outside Yale’s Sterling Hall of Medicine at 333 Cedar St. to speak out against what they described as a congressional attack on women’s health in favor of tax cuts for the rich.

The rally occurred one day after U.S. Senate Republicans announced that they will delay a vote on their proposed health care bill, following an outpouring of political organizing and protests across the country, including in New Haven. In addition to slashing support for women’s health care, the bill would cause tens of millions of low-income people to lose insurance, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

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