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Volume 5, Number 3                                            October 20, 2001




The Sterling Opera House came to a brief but enlightening life on Monday, September 10th as the Save Our Sterling group organized a tour and acoustic demonstration at the historic structure in downtown Derby.  Tenor Gary Harger sang a haunting and appropriate rendition of "Music of the Night" from the Phantom of the Opera musical.


Though the lights on stage have been dimmed for more than fifty years, it was obvious that the building's acoustics are still a marvel as Harger's voice filled the spacious building without the benefit of any electronic enhancement.


Derby's Mayor Marc Garofalo spoke briefly and positively concerning the future of the building, noting that a marketing feasibility study is underway now.  Both S.O.S. and City Officials recognize that funding for the project will come from State and Federal sources, and not from City money.


HALO Project draws boisterous crowd at City Hall Hearings


Recent public hearings at Derby's City Hall have sparked intense feelings both for and against the controversial plan for redeveloping Derby's blighted Hawkins and Anson Street neighborhood.  Most people present agreed that the troubled area has seen a decline in recent years as an undesirable element has become more prevalent and drug use has become more open.


The proposed redevelopment will significantly increase the assessed value of the area and increase the City's tax revenue.  Current estimates predict an increase in property tax revenue of about three-quarters of a million dollars annually.


The City has selected a developer from New Jersey, Duke Realty, Inc., who was the only applicant to respond to the City's Request for Proposals last spring.  Over

HALO Project, continued


seventy firms received copies of the City's Request for proposals (RFP).  In order to proceed with the HALO project, one hundred and thirty-five individual property owners will be required to sell their homes and rental properties to Duke Realty, a move that some observers feel is not going to happen without a fight.


Criticism was leveled by some participants concerning Duke Realty's Baron Block on Anson Street, a building that most people familiar with the situation believe characterizes t he types of problems the neighborhood faces rather than representing any sort of a solution.


Derby faces a tough decision concerning the proposed redevelopment and indeed the future of the downtown as well.  The area's past history has shown that inaction leads to deterioration of buildings, reduction in tax income from the blighted areas and a marked increase in the need for City services.  Whether the HALO neighborhood's root problem stems from irresponsible absentee landlords or the introduction of an unsavory element from outside the Valley due to urban renewal in other parts of the region, most observers agree that the current situation would not have been tolerated in the "Old Days" where neighborhood values and a sense of responsibility in one's family and pride in one's surroundings seemed more important.


The people most affected by the HALO redevelopment will be the older residents and long-time tax paying property owners who have watched helplessly the slow decline of the neighborhood.  The HALO plan cannot compensate these residents for their years of frustration caused largely by a decline in the social fabric beyond the City's control.


Derby and Duke Realty have a responsibility to design and construct a project unlike the majority of public housing that tends to show a poor track record of long-term success.  The City's development team must demonstrate to the voting public why the proposed HALO redevelopment will succeed where so many similar projects have failed.

Local Business Updates!!


Connie's Family Restaurant on Elizabeth Street in Downtown Derby has recently installed a wood-fired pizza oven and has been serving delicious homemade pizza in addition to their regular menu items.  This new addition is well worth a visit the next time the cook in your family deserves a night off!


A new antique shop has opened in downtown Ansonia in the former Ansonia Savings Bank headquarters on Main Street.  Obsidian's owner Casey Jordan is a newcomer

To the region and is a fountain of enthusiasm for the Valley and all it has to offer.  Obsidian offers a wide range of antique home furnishings, art and interesting objects large and small.  Be sure to pay a visit next time you are in downtown Ansonia.


Derby welcomed a new Italian Restaurant this summer on Main Street.  Fratelli's owner Sabrina Cosaj and her four brothers helped to renovate the decades-old Main Street location over the past few months and she chose the name, Italian for "brothers," partly to honor her family's contribution.  To see what beautiful results they have achieved in the renovations and for a great selection of Italian dishes, please stop by when you are in Downtown Derby.


Derby's two greens part of State Historic Internet Database


Connecticut Preservation News announced in the Sept./Oct. issue the introduction of a statewide town green database, available using the URL address http://www.towngreens.com.  The database contains information on every one of Connecticut's 172 town greens, including both Derby's downtown and Academy Hill greens.  East Derby's Academy Hill green dates from 1681, one of the earliest in the State.  Downtown's Birmingham green is later, having been laid out in 1839.  The Connecticut Trust for Historic Preservation publishes the Preservation News as part of its efforts to raise awareness of historic preservation issues around the region and the State.  Copies of Preservation News are available at the Derby Neck Library Downtown location.


Seventh Sterling Opera House Benefit Soiree


On Thursday evening, October 4th, an evening of traditional Neapolitan music was enjoyed by over 120 people at the Royale Restaurant on Roosevelt Drive in Derby.  Save Our Sterling's Harvey Bletchman acted as Master of Ceremonies and first introduced Coastal Chordsmen member Hy Schwartz who led the attendees in a rendition of "God Bless America."  The program moved on to the Neapolitan selections performed by Fabio Lucarelli and his son Fabio III.  Derby's Mayor Marc Garofalo helped behind the scenes by arranging to loan Fabio III an accordion when Fabio's turned up with a broken part.  Tenor Gary Harger also performed many Italian melodies which brought back many memories for the enthusiastic crowd.


A hot and cold hors d'oeuvres buffet was prepared and served by Dom Pirrintino and the staff of the Royale.  This event was partially funded by the Community Foundation for Greater New Haven.  An eighth event designed to raise awareness concerning the Sterling Opera House is planned for early next year.

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