Park Improvements Boost Hartford Neighborhood

Sigourney Square Park in Hartford has been transformed with renovations and new signs. Residents say it's boosting the entire neighborhood.

A Hartford park that's been plagued with crime for years has been transformed into a place families enjoy.

Sigourney Square Park, in the heart of Hartford's Asylum Hill neighborhood, now looks dramatically different than it did years ago.

"The park that we used to have, it was old and it was time for change," said Luwannia Martin, of the Friends of Sigourney Square Park.

On Friday, 19 "Welcome" banners, funded by The Hartford, were put up on Friday. They are the final upgrades in a year-long renovation at the park.

The park is also now home to a new playscape, a new splash pad, a new fitness course, new benches, new picnic tables, and two resurfaced basketball courts.

In all, the city spent more than $700,000 on the improvements.

Residents said the new park is a welcome change over the crime and drugs that overtook the park in the past.

"There ain't no more drugs up here no more," said Michael Jackson, who lives in Hartford. "If it is, it's outside the park."

Years ago, crime was so bad in the park that police and community organizations installed three cameras along the edge to watch the area.

One remains operational, while the two others are currently being upgraded, according to Hartford police.

Now, residents say crime is down, people are taking more pride and maintaining the surrounding properties.

"That (stigma) that they had long ago, it's not there anymore because they see more people coming out, utilizing the park," Martin said.

The project is part of an overall effort to improve the entire neighborhood.

The community organization, Northside Institutions Neighborhood Alliance, or NINA, has been renovating and re-selling blighted homes in the area, including one on Sargeant Street at the corner of the park.
Now, home prices are on the rise in the area and there's greater interest among people who want to buy them, David Corrigan, of NINA, said.

Residents said they're noticing a difference with the housing and park improvements.

"It's getting better. That's all I can say.  I mean, one day at a time," said Andre Thompson, a Hartford resident.

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