Controversy Grows Over Plans for Old Newhallville School

NBC Universal, Inc.

Inside Gary Gate’s barbershop on Dixwell Avenue, the conversation is heating up over the APT Foundation’s plans to move in across the street.

“We were totally shocked,” Gates said. “It’s just not something we would expect to even be in this community considering where we’re bringing this community from.”

Residents and business owners say APT Foundation never met with the community before the organization purchased the building at the New Haven - Hamden line.

“I felt betrayed, just like my community,” said Ward 20 Alder Devin Avshalom-Smith.

They're against the foundation’s plan to move the organization’s headquarters and outpatient clinic, which would include some methadone treatment, from Long Wharf to Newhallville.

“Why come here? When the community doesn’t want it?” said Avshalom-Smith. “It smells funny to me because they didn’t come to us in the first place.”

APT Foundation CEO Lynn Madden said they’ve been looking to buy a specific type of building for the last seven years. They weren’t looking at the neighborhood.

“We were really respectfully looking for properties that were big enough, that were in the city of New Haven and were zoned for the use that we are planning for this location,” Madden said.

Which includes primary care, mental health and substance abuse treatments.

“Really trying to bring wholistic care to people who live with mental health or substance use disorders,” Madden said.

Those seeking methadone would be treated on the spot and then referred to one of the group’s other locations for ongoing care. They have a clinic on Congress Avenue in New Haven, as well as in North Haven and West Haven.

They treat 8,000 people each year through their primary care, mental health and substance abuse offerings. She said the U.S. recently hit a record high for overdoses and thinks the country really should make treatment accessible throughout the spectrum of healthcare, from primary care to emergency services.

“There’s a lot of people using opioids who don’t know that they’re using opioids and the only way that we know how to interrupt opioid use disorder is with the use of medication,” Madden said.

She said she understands the concerns and worry in Newhallville.

“It’s difficult to locate these clinics because of that, right?” Madden said. “There’s a lot of stigma not only against the treatment itself but the persons who use this care.”

But leaders here say it goes beyond that. They believe in getting people help, but don’t believe it should be in their community.

“Because we’ve come so far in this community of trying to build up and establish businesses right here in this area. And we’re just trying to keep it like that, you know?” said Gates, owner of Who’s Next barbershop.

Having methadone services, no matter how small, he said, will set them back and potentially create an opportunity for drug sales and crime to increase.

“If we let you do the medical portion of it, six months later, here comes your methadone license. So no, as a community we don’t want any of it,” Gates said.

He is one of the organizers against the move. He said he wants to continue the positive community and business growth in Newhallville as an example for young people. He worries about what children will be exposed to while walking back and forth to school, and he’s also concerned for seniors, many of whom are homeowners.

Community management team chair Kim Harris said they want to see the space used for education and job advancement classes and training.

“We no longer are going to be the capital of violence guns and drugs. We’re going to be the capital of job training, youth training, development and innovation,” Harris said.

Half a block away from Gates’ barbershop is Willie C.’s. Owner Willie Mewborn has been cutting hair in Newhallville for 50 years. Gates said Mewborn is an example of the living history of Newhallville and how one generation can inspire another, as Mewborn has done for him.

When asked how he feels about apt foundation moving into the neighborhood, Mewborn said he’s disappointed no one contacted him or the neighborhood.

“It should have been cleared before they moved in, they should have checked with the neighborhood,” said Mewborn.  

Madden said they will hold plans to go before the city’s planning and zoning commissions until March so they can have more conversations with the community. Avshalom-Smith said there have been conversations already, but like the others feels it should have happened well before the foundation purchased the building.

Community organizers are planning a rally Saturday at noon at 795 Dixwell Ave. in front of the old Elm City School.

Contact Us