Care for Kids Youth Day To Hit Green This Sunday

She’ll call it Jayden’s House, and it will have everything from after school tutoring and arts and crafts, to a “resource department” set up to help families with various needs.

This is the vision that Dawn Reed, the President and Founder of the organization Jayden’s House, has expressed for a youth/community center she wants to establish in one of New Haven’s most impoverished neighborhoods. It may take a long time to lay the groundwork for that initiative, so for now, she wants to show the city how it will work.

This Sunday, Jayden’s House and Stars in the Making-an organization co-sponsoring the event-will hold Care for Kids Youth Day on the New Haven Green. They’re bringing games, clowns, arts and crafts, and-she hopes-Mayor Toni Harp. The goal: to get gets active, involved, and inspired, Reed says.

“This is to demonstrate all of the things you’ll be able to do in a community house,” Reed said over the phone. “We’ll have resources for the kids.”

The event, which runs from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m., will feature emergency safety lessons from American Medical Response, (AMR) as well as a kickball and wiffle ball game. The event is free and open to all kids, Reed says.

It’s something that she hopes to hold annually in order to raise awareness regarding her community house vision. She’ll add other events throughout the year in that effort, she says.

“It’s a matter of getting some funding available, and getting some people who will sponsor us,” Reed says.

She says she has a few locations in mind, but wants to focus on neighborhoods like Newhallville, which she feels have the greatest need.

“I want to see it in the areas of greatest need so we can make some changes,” Reed says. “On a community-level, many kids can benefit. It’s imperative to give our kids outlets to help them become better, more productive individuals.”

Jayden’s House, Inc. is an organization that focuses on issues pertaining to window safety. It was named after Reed’s nephew, who was lost his life five years ago at the age of 2 due to a window-related accident. Stars in the Making is a mentoring program for girls ages 12 to 17.

Reed said that the event is still seeking volunteers and sponsors, and that those interested in participating can reach her at 203-909-1270. Donations can be mailed to Dawn Reed/ Jayden’s House Inc, P.O. Box 4394, at 41 Wigwam Ave in Waterbury, CT 06704.

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Community Policing Task Force, Residents, Meet for First Time

task force

By January, a Mayor Toni Harp-appointed task force composed of New Haven Police Department officers, members of the clergy, community activists, and city residents will submit recommendations regarding how to improve community policing and law enforcement/civilian relations as a whole, but right now they’re asking people to weigh-in.

That was the purpose of the public hearing-the first of four that will take place within the next few months-that was held in the Wexler Grant School auditorium on Wednesday evening.

“The police need the community, and the community needs the police,” said New Haven Officer Shafiq Abdussabur. “So we have to see how we can work together and get on the same page.”

The objectives include the evaluation of current community policing practices, as well as New Haven Police Department procedures and protocols, particularly when it comes to the use of force-an issue that emerged in protests that followed a controversial St. Patrick’s Day arrest video, in which a 15-year old girl was brought to the ground through the use of a leg sweep.

The officer was exonerated through an Internal Affairs process, but not before Mayor Harp had him moved to desk duty-a measure that sparked an outcry from members of the Department.

The Committee’s task is just getting started, and members want to know what the greatest concerns are for residents.

“We’re excited about the process,” said Committee Co-Chair Leroy Williams. “We’re not really here to debate-we’re here to listen. We want to see what your concerns are as it relates to policing.”

While concerns regarding racial profiling, use of force, and youth engagement were voiced, a few residents wanted to address the process itself, and ensure that it goes beyond just a discussion.

“I don’t want to see something where we talk, and talk, and talk and present this nice document to the mayor, and it stops there,” said New Haven resident Latrice Hampton. “All too often, it stops there.”

Committee Co-Chair Eli Greer agreed, and promised the work of this task force would not reflect that history.

“This is not just another meeting-another get-together where we all feel good and pack up our bags and move on,” Greer said. “The Committee’s in it for the long haul, but we do need to here from the public and that process will take several months.”

And that, they did. New Haven resident Chris Garaffa urged the city to follow through with the establishment of an all-civilian review board in the likeness of resident and activist Emma Jones’ vision. Jones-with the help of Task Force Member Anthony Dawson-began pushing for a New Haven review board in 1997, after her son, Malik, was gunned down by an East Haven officer who chased him into Fair Haven.

Former Mayor John DeStefano, Jr. instituted a review board by executive order in 2001, but it lacked independent investigative and subpoena powers-major components of the Jones/Dawson blueprint. A 2013 Charter referendum has brought the structure of the body back to the drawing board, and the Board of Alders is currently in the process of remolding it, with the first public hearing held several months ago.

“It’s been entirely too long that we’ve been fighting for this,” Garaffa said. “It’s in the Charter, and it needs to have full powers.”

When it comes to community policing, Chief Dean Esserman-who was unable to attend the hearing-has said during past public meetings that new officers walk the same beat in a given neighborhood in order to familiarize themselves with certain areas and connect with residents on a more personal level.

Alder Delphine Clyburn suggested taking that further by having new officers meet with neighborhood management teams when they are first hired in the interest of enhancing communication.

Latesha Smith-a city resident-urged the Police Department and public officials to organize events aimed at bringing the youth and other residents to the table in an informal setting-such as a cookout or community basketball event. Smith, who describers herself as a millennial, says that many of her peers would benefit from that.

“I feel like my generation is overlooked,” she said. “They get out of school and are jobless.”

Since part of the task force’s charge will be evaluating Police Department policies and procedures, the public should be able to see what-specifically-Committee members are looking at, said Jane Mills, a city resident.

Williams said that it is still early, and that that information will be forthcoming.

Fired Home Care Worker Alleges Retaliation

Dina

A New Haven-based home care company is under some fire after the termination of a worker who says that she lost her job for speaking to her fellow employees about unionizing.

Claudina Lara-or, Dina-a home care nurse who has been with Family Care Agency for the past three and a half years, was dismissed from her position last Wednesday. Two days later, a small contingent of protesters-a mix of local labor activists, members of the Working Families Party, and representatives from United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 919-were outside her former employer’s Blake Street offices with a demand for-in their words-“justice for Dina”.

The group-between 15 and 20 demonstrators-picketed outside Family Care Agency’s parking lot on Friday morning.

Dina rally

When she was terminated, her former employers said that they had heard that she had been maligning the company and that a client had complained that she had cursed in front of them, Lara said.

She denies the second allegation, and says that her discussions with fellow employees regarding efforts to unionize and request benefits such as paid sick and family leave were not an attempt to tarnish the company’s reputation, but start a conversation regarding what she feels is long overdue.

“All the common stuff that you want in a company,” Lara said. “I wasn’t speaking for myself-I was speaking for my co-workers who are afraid because this is their only source of income. I guess they [Family Care Agency] feel threatened, but I didn’t think I did anything wrong.”

Lara, who typically worked with up to four patients over the course of an 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. workday, was paid $10 an hour. Lara has been a home care nurse for 28 years.

“In these days and times, employers should realizes that workers rights are human rights,” said Darryl Brackeen, Jr., an Alder who supported the legislative push for a domestic workers’ bill of rights. “An experienced employee such as Dina should have been fairly compensated.”

Lara said that she plans to take legal action, and that the fight to establish a union is not over.

“The union is here to support Dina for standing up,” said Jason Dokla, Director of Organizing for Local 919. “She stood up for what she believed in and the company tried to stifle her by firing her, and that’s wrong and illegal.”

Under the National Labor Relations Act, an employer whose termination of a worker is found to have been an act of retaliation-for wage or abuse complaints, among other reasons-can be ordered by the National Labor Relations Board to reinstate the individual as well as provide back pay for the time in which they were without a job.

“That’s not a very high price to pay,” said James Bhandary-Alexander, a New Haven Legal Services attorney who represents workers in labor-related cases.

Bhandary-Alexander would not comment on Lara’s case specifically because he does not know the details, but said that from his own experiences, retaliation is relatively common.

“The reason it’s so common, even though it’s illegal, is because many employers can’t seem to resist retaliating,” he said. “The other thing is the consequences are too low.”

That and that it’s not the easiest thing to prove, Bhandary-Alexander said.

“It can be pretty hard,” he said. “Only one in a million [employers] would say ‘I’m firing you because you’re talking about a union’. There’s always a pretext.”

So the trick for terminated employees seeking retaliation sanctions is proving that the given reason for their firing is in fact a pretext. They can accomplish that by pointing to aspects of the work environment that indicate that others get away with a given offense, or bring up their own record regarding work efficiency and discipline, Bhandary-Alexander said.

Family Care Agency did not return a message requesting comment. The story will be updated if we hear from them.

Human Torso Found at Crown Street Address

First a pair of legs, then arms, and now, a torso-that’s the latest clue authorities uncovered in an ongoing search for answers in the homicide death of a local homeless man.

Earlier this week, the New Haven Police Department got word from the Scientific Services Division of the State of Connecticut Department of Emergency Services identifying homeless man Ray Roberson as the owner of two legs that were found in some thick brush outside the State Street railroad station two weeks ago.

Since the identification, authorities have resumed a search for clues that has involved cadaver-sniffing canines. Conversations with other homeless individuals led police to the former Salvation Army building-an abandoned site at 301 George Street-where Roberson was known to have spent time, according to a press release the New Haven Police Department put out today.

The torso was discovered at 271 Crown Street-a building within the same lot as the George Street property-at around 12 p.m. Thursday. The search-conducted by both local and state police-began around midnight on Thursday.

“The remains have not been identified,” New Haven Police Department Public Information Officer David Hartman wrote in the press release. “As was the case with the previously-found remains, an investigation by the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner’s Office and the State Forensic Laboratory must be completed for us to connect this case to the Roberson case. This will take some time. We will not speculate on the outcome.”

So far, each of the clues that have turned up in the case have been-to some extent-linked to Roberson. While state investigators determined earlier this week that the legs belonged to him, yesterday’s press release said that-according to the Division of Scientific Services-the arms “are most likely those of Roberson”.

A homeless city resident alerted police to the presence of the legs on the morning of July 15. A subsequent search led authorities to the arms-discovered with the hands missing-which were found underneath the Chapel Street bridge.

During the search of the property, police arrested David Andaz, 47, for third degree burglary and theft of utility services. He has not in any way been tied to the Roberson case, and is being held on $5,000 bond.

Unrepresented: Many Immigrants Fight Deportation Cases Alone

It’s been more than 26 years since Mark Reid made his mistakes-a string of minor infractions that include drug possession.

“Being a product of my environment, I got in some minor situations,” Reid says. “I was basically doing someone a favor, and it ended up being a setup.”

Reid, who came to the United States from Jamaica 40 years ago, never even did time for those offenses-not until over 20 years after the fact, at least.

He would spend around a year in a half in a Massachusetts Immigration Customs Enforcement, (ICE) detention center between 2013 and 2014 while waiting to find out whether or not he would be deported. Far from New Haven, where he lives, Reid searched desperately for an attorney to represent him.

“You don’t have the means to provide counsel and your funds are drained,” Reid says. “It’s just an unfair situation. I reached out to so many different lawyers. I couldn’t find anyone who would take the case Pro Bono.”

Until he got in touch with Mike Wishnie, the supervising attorney for the Worker and Immigrant Rights Advocacy Clinic at the Yale University School of Law.

Reid is out of detention, but still awaiting his fate-that will be up to the Immigration Board of Appeals, which remanded an immigration judge’s ruling that denied his petition for relief under the Convention Against Torture. The case was sent back to the Immigration Court, which prompted another round of appeals with its second denial of Reid’s petition.

“I have yet to meet one person who is a danger to the U.S.,” Reid says of the time he spent in detention. “A majority of the people are long-time, legal residents who built a life [here]. Who did a minor offense, ten, fifteen years ago.”

And a majority will navigate the complex immigration legal system alone-Reid is far from being the only deportation defendant without the means to hire a lawyer.

In New York City, that majority is 60 percent, but that’s only for those detained in facilities close to home, according to a 2012 Freedom of Information Act request-compiled report released by the organizations Families for Freedom, the Immigrant Defense Project, and New York University School of Law’s Immigrant Rights Clinic. Once a defendant is transferred to any of the out-of-state immigration detention facilities-at the time of the report, detainees were being sent as far as Arizona and Colorado-the chances of them being represented in their proceedings lowers significantly.

The study found that 79 percent of those in out-of-state lockups did not have an attorney.

“It’s probably fair to extrapolate the New York cases,” Wishnie says “I don’t think there’s any reason to think it’s [the percentage of defendants with representation] higher [here] than in New York.”

Since immigrant defendants tend to be low income, the barrier is often socioeconomic, Wishnie says.

“It’s a cost factor,” he says. “Private immigration attorneys are expensive. In Connecticut, there really are no legal defense organizations that will do removal cases.”

And the cost of coming up short-for the defendant-are high, but those facing removal do not have a right to be appointed counsel.

“They still look at immigration as a civil matter, even though it has all the components of a criminal case,” Reid says.

Although the right to an attorney exists in some civil matters, deportation is not one of them. Some are trying to change that. John Pollock, a coordinator with The National Coalition for a Civil Right to Counsel, is among them.

“There’s been a question about due process,” Pollock says.

The Coalition’s work focuses not on establishing the right to counsel in all civil cases, but in legal areas where access to “human needs” are often jeopardized, and immigration is one of them, Pollock says.

Those in removal proceedings face not only being separated from their families and livelihoods, but whatever prompted them to leave their country of origin in the first place. As last summer’s influx of Central American migrants-under-aged refugees fleeing violence and poverty in their home countries-showed, the consequences can become fatal.

“When you put that all together, it’s kind of shocking that there isn’t an immigrants’ right to counsel,” Pollock says.

But in some civil matters-such as juvenile cases-a defendant has the right to be appointed counsel based on whether they are competent enough to represent themselves, says Ahilan Arulanantham, the Legal Director for the ACLU of Southern California.

That became the crux of Franco-Gonzales v. Holder, a case that Arulanantham litigated. The Supreme  Court ruling in the class action lawsuit, brought by the ACLU on behalf of individuals incarcerated in California, Arizona, and Washington-based ICE facilities, establishes that immigrant detainees with mental disabilities have to be appointed an attorney in deportation proceedings.

“It’s the first time that the Federal government has appointed counsel to people in deportation proceedings,” Arulanantham said over the phone. “The fact that they’re doing that is an important shift.”

One that will-unfortunately for other immigrant detainees-have to continue one inch at a time.

“It doesn’t have a straight-forward application to other groups,” Arulanantham said. “The court didn’t say that the fact you were detained and facing deportation is enough to get you counsel.”

The ruling focuses more on the issue of discrimination-in this case, against individuals with severe mental disabilities. But which ones, specifically?

“If you have a mental disorder that is so serious that it prevents you from doing things like testifying or making legal arguments,” Arulanatham said.

So could the discrimination argument be made in addressing the cases of other types of detainees? The ACLU thinks so, but right now it is focusing more specifically on a defendant’s ability-or lack thereof-to act as their own attorney. That’s the basis of J.E.F.M. v. Holder, a case Arulanatham is litigating in Washington D.C. The ACLU lawsuit aims to establish a right to appointed counsel for children in deportation proceedings.

“The law treats children differently because they have less capacity,” he said. “I think in the future, for sure, other vulnerable groups [can make that argument]. The children are what we see as the next obvious analogy.”

Police Identify Homicide Victim in Case of Severed Limbs

Authorities have identified the person whose legs were found in some thick brush outside the State Street Railroad Station at Court Street.

The New Haven Police Department got word that the pair of legs-discovered two weeks ago by a city resident before a subsequent search uncovered two arms-belong to Ray Roberson, age 65, a homeless man who authorities say has not been seen alive since May 20 of this year.

Roberson missed a New Haven court date on June 17, 2015.

New Haven police got the word from the Connecticut Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection’s Division of Scientific Services-which has been running DNA tests on both sets of limbs-and put out the information in a press release this morning.

The arms-discovered missing their hands-were not found to have belonged to Roberson. A cadaver canine-assisted search that was halted a little less than two weeks ago is resuming with this discover, according to the Police Department statement.

Local authorities will again have the aid of State Police in the search for additional clues.

As of now, the case is being investigated as a homicide, said New Haven Police Department Public Information Officer David Hartman in the press release.

A city resident found the legs on the morning of July 15 and alerted police. How long they had been in the brush is unknown. Then, police found the arms-in a plastic bag under the Chapel Street Bridge near Union Avenue.

A search involving New Haven, Metropolitan Authority, Amtrak, and State police-along with the 5 canines-did not yield any new discoveries when it was deployed that Thursday and was subsequently halted. Although authorities are out looking again, Hartman said that the case may not remain local.

Police do not yet have any indication as to where the homicide or removal of the victim’s limbs occurred, Hartman said.

The Space’s Second Wind: The Fight for Hamden’s Music Mainstay

stickers

When you walk into The Space, the first thing you notice are the stickers-there are a lot of them.

On the door, which is covered, but they must have run out of room there. Head into the show room-equipped with a snack bar and merchandise table-and you’ll notice that they’ve overflowed out onto the a couple of poles between the stage and a collection of tables set up for spectators.

“One for every band that’s been here,” says Jon Galvin, guitarist and lead vocalist for The Lively-formerly the Lively Lot-which just finished their set at last Thursday night’s show. “There’s countless more that just don’t sticker. When we first came, we probably put four up in different places.”

Pole

And on cars in the venue’s parking lot-a hidden gem among the maze of industrial buildings. We’re outside at the picnic tables in front of the Space’s neon sign-the advertised draw: coffee, and a recording studio. Mick Bailek, The Lively’s other guitarist, is sitting nearby. He grins at the memory.

“‘You will listen to us’,” Bailek recalls with a laugh.

That was ten years ago. The two try to figure out how many shows that is. At first Galvin says seven or eight, but then they remember:

“We played here almost once a month last year,” Bailek reminds him.

“Yeah, we played here a lot,” Galvin says.

If the stickers are any indication, for underground, up and coming bands, all roads lead to The Space, Hamden’s iconic venue that is now trying to see the path beyond its own dead end-financial struggles compounded in the winter’s series of snow storms and the subsequent show cancellations.

The Space

Rodgers did not specify as to how behind they are, but fundraising goals-they’re running a campaign online-are at $25,000.

“It’s been a tough winter,” says Steve Rodgers, the owner and founder of The Space. “This has been the most challenging financial time we’ve been through.”

And that’s saying a lot, considering the venue’s roots.

Flashback to 2003: Rodgers-a decade of his own tours under his belt-was living in the apartment above a Treadwell Street building; the home of a friend’s record label endeavor that also served as a practice space for bands. When the latter became an issue with their landlord, Rodgers faced eviction.

It was around that time that he was taking a walk to clear his head and cope with the stress of the situation. The area near where Treadwell meets Dixwell Avenue-a collection of hidden lots and storefronts-doesn’t seem ideal for a stroll, but for Rodgers, it turned out to be the best place he could have been.

He crossed Treadwell and wandered into one of the lots and stumbled upon a building that was-at that time-just, well, space.

“The sign said, ‘For Rent’,” Rodgers said.

And then he had the idea.

If Rodgers’ impulse that day was driven by the nostalgia of a band hangout and rehearsal spot lost, that’s reflected in its reincarnation. The basement venue is spacious, but it feels small in that the vibe is intimate, and that’s the way Rodgers wants it.

“I played different kinds of venues all over the country,” he says. “So I kind of garnered a feel for what a place should look like, feel like, act like.”

A few words that come to his mind: “Safe”. “Positive”. The slogan on The Space’s website puts it like this: A venue run “for musicians, by musicians.”

Tangibly, what does that translate to?

If you ask artists such as Galvin and Mimi Herrick-she’s played The Space for a decade as a member of three different bands- the lead vocalist and guitarist for Fighting Giants, it can come down to the owner and staff being hassle free. But the perks-on-site equipment and a recording studio-help as well.

“They’re just very band-friendly,” Herrick says after the opening set of last Thursday’s show. “It’s a really cool atmosphere that you don’t get elsewhere.”

And she’s aware of the venue’s financial difficulties.

“You take away this place, and it’s like taking away someone’s passion-someone’s way of learning,” Herrick says.

Fighting Giants

We’re a few songs into The Lively’s set. It’s a light crowd-it’s a weeknight-but everyone is stoked to rock out to their heavier sound. They finish one track to thunderous applause, but Galvin has room to be a little bit critical.

“We nailed it-sort of,” he tells the crowd.

The learning; that, is where The Space even more closely resembles the comfort of a practice session. Artists describe finding their stride, fine tuning their craft, and growing within the friendly confines. And they always come back. Now, they’re coming back to give back.

The Lively Band may have lost count of the shows they’ve played here, but tonight it’s, as Galvin puts it during the group’s set, about making “every show count”.

“Every show matters now,” he says to the crowd. “We’ve been playing here for well over a decade, and every time we come here, this place welcomes us with open arms. And we’re gonna keep it going. This is the part where I cry.”

Lively Band

Not really, but the sentiment has certainly been felt-and the fundraising effort has shown that.

When we first spoke to Rodgers-a little less than a week before last Thursday’s show-the online campaign had raised around $16,000. As of July 21, that had grown to over $21,000, and that’s before a pair of August fundraisers that will be held at the nearby Outer Space-it’s in the same lot and Rodgers owns both venues. On Facebook, anyway, around 900 people are projected to be attending.

That basement over at The Space probably wasn’t going to be big enough.

“There have been shows where kids were lined up out the door to the point where I had to say, ‘I can’t let anybody else in’,” Rodgers says. “Kids would hang out outside, just listening to the bands.”

If that’s reminiscent of the old Foreigner song, “Jukebox Hero”, there will be a number of bands passing their shadows as they cross The Space’s parking lot to perform at its sister venue. Rodgers equates it to a network-a huge family that, no matter how spread out they might get geographically, remains tight-knit and rallies at home at the first sign of trouble.

“I’m very blessed by the support we’ve gotten from the community,” Rodgers says. “There’s people from all over who have donated to our online fundraiser.”