City Notes
Trash can poster
Local health organization makes a difference in West Haven

Before-and-after photos of the new planters on Main Street done by the Bridges Healthcare “Garden Together” team. (Bridges Photo/John Ciambriello)

Health organization makes a difference in West Haven

WEST HAVEN, Aug. 7, 2019 — Bridges Healthcare includes as part of its mission the goal of improving the lives of children, families and adults with mental health disorders and substance abuse challenges.

As if that weren’t a lofty enough goal, the organization, which provides services for thousands of Milford, Orange and West Haven residents, has recently worked hard to also make a difference in the center of West Haven, where it operates a small business, Coffee Haven West.

The unique shop at 535 Campbell Ave. offers a selection of tasty coffees and refreshments for downtown workers and residents. As a Center business, the organization wanted to go a step further in becoming a good “corporate citizen” to the community as well.

In the last couple of months, the organization began an effort to beautify the downtown area, help inspire other businesses to do the same, and help build character for its clients.

John Ciambriello, a social rehabilitation case manager at Bridges, had an idea to share his love of gardening with other staff and clients by organizing a group called “Garden Together.”

The group started with six pottery planters at the entrances to the municipal parking lot serving the row of stores in which the coffee shop operates. Previously, the large planters had become receptacles for unsightly trash and weeds.

In early June, Garden Together planted a mix of colorful begonias, petunias and marigolds in the planters to visually change and improve the area. The group included clients Alex Flynn, Rebecca Pinkleton and Kurt Zehnder.

Learning from online videos and the experiences of its members, the group has also planted a garden of vegetables and flowers behind Coffee Haven West and has involved staff and clients in tending to the planters to keep them watered to ensure they thrive in the warmer months.

To build on those efforts, the organization then reached out to members of the West Haven Beautification Committee and asked if they could help with new plantings around City Hall.

In late June, Bridges organized a team of seven staff members and clients of Young Adult Services to meet with a representative of the Beautification Committee to plant two large planters in front of City Hall — one on Campbell Avenue, one on Main Street — and a planting area opposite City Hall on the northeast corner of the Green.

The Bridges team, in addition to Ciambriello, included Jason Crockett, director of operations for Young Adult Services; Shirley Leto, recovery coordinator for YAS; and clients Andrea Zello, Shania Ploughman, Salena Gural and Raidah Arshad.

The group joined forces with committee co-Chair David Killeen and toiled late that day to complete the work — with impressive results.

“Keeping an attractive appearance around City Hall is a major concern of my administration,” Mayor Nancy R. Rossi said. “The efforts of groups like Bridges and the Beautification Committee help us make the area attractive at a considerable savings for the city. I am thankful for their contribution to this effort.”

“Bridges Healthcare is committed to being a part of the community and is always looking for opportunities to involve our staff and clients in projects that really make a difference around us,” Crockett said. “These efforts in West Haven are a perfect example.”

The coffee shop serves to provide vocational training and opportunities for clients engaged with Bridges’ Young Adult Services program. YAS takes a multidimensional approach to assist young adults with a history of trauma, abuse or other mental health issues to develop independent living skills and self-sufficiency and reach their fullest potential, Crockett said.

YAS is funded by the state Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services.

Killeen, who is also the assistant city planner, added: “We were pleased to partner with Bridges to make this kind of improvement in the West Haven Center. We assist with similar efforts throughout the city, and our goal is to help build pride in the community.”

Killeen said the committee provided a mix of perennial and annual flowers to fill the planting areas.

West Haven’s Beautification Program is being financed by the city Department of Human Resources under the leadership of Commissioner Beth A. Sabo.


From left, Bridges clients Alex Flynn, Rebecca Pinkleton and Kurt Zehnder strike a pose next to one of their new planters on Main Street. (Bridges Photo/John Ciambriello)

City Hall

From left, Shirley Leto, recovery coordinator for Bridges’ Young Adult Services program; Bridges client Selena Gural; West Haven Beautification Committee co-Chair David Killeen; and Bridges clients Andrea Zello and Shania Ploughman add flowers to a City Hall planting area near Campbell Avenue. (Bridges Photo/John Ciambriello)


Bridges clients Shania Ploughman, left, and Raidah Arshad plant a section on the Green. (City Photo/David Killeen)

Storm drain stenciling aims to keep city beaches clean

Storm drain stenciling aims to keep city beaches clean

WEST HAVEN, Aug. 7, 2019 — Think about the way water rushes into a storm drain in the middle of a parking lot or alongside a street. Ever stopped to wonder where the water goes?

In West Haven’s case, all that water goes straight to the shoreline, carrying trash, leaves, soil sediment, fertilizers and toxic materials — pesticides, household cleaners, gasoline, motor oil — with it. It ends up in the water we swim in.

The city’s new Storm Drain Marking Project aims to educate the public on the connection between storm drains and local waterways and to remind them that storm sewers are for water, not trash or toxic materials. West Haven’s reputation and community health depend on the quality of its shoreline waters.

Storm drain stenciling is done on residents’ schedules, with them deciding how many drains they want to stencil. Scout groups, middle school-age students — with adult supervision — and high school-age students, as well as civic and church groups are potential participant teams.

A free orientation for volunteers is offered by the Sustainable West Haven team from 10 a.m.-noon Aug. 17 at 15 Laurel St. Register for the orientation at

‘Christmas in July’ toy drive extended

‘Christmas in July’ toy drive extended

WEST HAVEN, Aug. 7, 2019 — Painter Park Day Camp participant Amelie Choiniere, 7, of West Haven, drops off a donation July 26 for the Department of Parks and Recreation’s “Christmas in July” toy drive. The department is now accepting donations through Friday.

Park-Rec is co-sponsoring the toy drive with the Connecticut Recreation & Parks Association and Christmas Wish CT, a charity committed to sharing the spirit of Christmas year-round.

The department aims to collect 1,200 new, unwrapped toys at its Painter Park office, 190 Kelsey Ave., as well as at its camp and playground programs and swimming pool venues.

Park-Rec will donate a portion of the collected toys to Christmas toy drives held by West Haven Professional Fire Fighters Local 1198 and the West Haven High School Peer Advocacy Program for residents in need.

The rest of the toys will benefit Christmas Wish’s Annual Christmas Party. The volunteer charitable organization will distribute the toys to local children and families.

(City Photo/Diane Dietman)


Nicholas McGuffie, division manager of Dunning Playground Surfacing of Farmington, is joined by Park-Rec program coordinator Diane Dietman on Friday while picking up toys collected by Park-Rec campers for Christmas Wish CT. Dietman is the department’s toy drive coordinator. (City Photo/Kate Coldren)

West Haven sets lineup for Summer Concert Series

The Nu Groove plays concert series Thursday night

WEST HAVEN, Aug. 7, 2019 — The West Haven Summer Concert Series continues on the Green at 7 p.m. Thursday with rhythm and blues and classic rock hits performed by The Nu Groove.

The two-hour concert is free.

The Thursday night series comes to a close in Old Grove Park on Aug. 15 with R&B, funk and reggae favorites by Le’Mixx Band.

See the Flyer.

Concerts postponed by rain will move to the same time and venue the following Monday.

For rescheduling information, visit the Department of Parks and Recreation website,, or call 203-937-3677 after 4 p.m. the day of the concert.

West Haven United
Scholarship winner

Scholarship winner

WEST HAVEN, Aug. 2, 2019 — Councilman Nicholas W. Ruickoldt, D-2, the son of the late Susan Ruickoldt, presents a $2,000 check on behalf of the West Haven Breast Cancer Awareness Program to Susan A. Ruickoldt Scholarship Fund recipient Emily Cummings on Thursday at City Hall.

The fund was founded 17 years ago in memory of Ruickoldt, a city schoolteacher who died of breast cancer in 1997, and a check is awarded to a female high school senior from West Haven who plans to continue her education.

Cummings, a 2019 graduate of West Haven High School, will attend Southern Connecticut State University this fall.

(City Photo/Michael P. Walsh)

Artists, volunteers, sponsors sought for visual arts festival

Artists, volunteers, sponsors sought for visual arts fest

WEST HAVEN, Aug. 2, 2019 — Interested in connecting with the arts?

City-Wide Open Studios, a monthlong festival of visual arts, is returning to Greater New Haven, including a weekend event in West Haven.

Organizers are seeking artists, volunteers and sponsors to participate in the festival, in its 22nd year, from Oct. 4-Nov. 3.

Artists have until Sept. 1 to register for the festival, which is open to all state residents and presented by Artspace, the nerve center of New Haven’s contemporary arts scene.

Artists across all media can choose from three weekends in October and November to share their work and creative process with an arts-friendly community. Organizers will consider all artists for curator visits. For information, go to

Those looking to volunteer, including high school students needing community service hours, can sign up at

Area businesses are invited to celebrate the creative talent that helps the business community thrive by supporting City-Wide Open Studios. This year’s festival theme, “Older but Younger,” explores society’s changing attitudes about aging and longevity.

Program ads are accepted until mid-September at Business card sizes are available by contacting Elinor Slomba, executive producer of CWOS, at

For the second year, CWOS will hold its Alternative Space Weekend from noon-6 p.m. Nov. 2-3 at Yale University’s West Campus in West Haven.

The special weekend event sets CWOS apart from other open studio weekends by offering artists from across Connecticut — and those interested in creating site-specific works — a unique backdrop to showcase their talents.

Learn more about Alternative Space Weekend at


Moody’s upgrades West Haven’s bond rating outlook to ‘stable’

WEST HAVEN, July 31, 2019 — Moody’s Investors Service on Tuesday affirmed West Haven’s credit rating at Baa3 while upgrading its outlook on the city to “stable” from “negative,” Mayor Nancy R. Rossi announced.

In its bond credit analysis, Moody’s said the revised rating outlook “reflects West Haven’s stabilizing financial position and the effectiveness of the financial and administrative oversight provided by the State of Connecticut’s Municipal Accountability Review Board (MARB).”

“I am very pleased with Moody’s removing the negative outlook and upgrading the city of West Haven to a stable outlook,” Rossi said. “We need to continue the progress and improve our overall bond rating. That will take some time, but this is a step in the right direction.”

The mayor continued: “We have stabilized our financial situation and are making the tough budget decisions that are necessary for future success. The change in the outlook may seem minor, but it could save West Haven taxpayers up to 25 basis points, or a 0.25 percentage point, on future bonding. This outlook upgrade is very important.”

In its report, the New York agency also credits the increase in West Haven’s grand list valuations and progress toward structural balance despite the city receiving state restructuring funds.

“The stable outlook reflects our expectation that West Haven, under the supervision of the MARB, will adhere to its 5-year recovery plan and continue to make incremental progress towards structural balance and building fund balance over the outlook period,” the report said.

“We have spent much of the past 20 months dealing with serious budget issues and marketing and attracting new economic development opportunities for the city,” Rossi said. “West Haven is on the right path forward, and I am looking forward to working with the MARB and the City Council to continue the progress.”


City poet laureate hosting poetry reading Aug. 19 at Main Library

WEST HAVEN, July 31, 2019 — Tony Fusco, the city’s poet laureate, will host a poetry reading from 6-7 p.m. Aug. 19 at the Main Library, 300 Elm St.

Fusco, a lifelong resident who in April was appointed the honorary position of poet laureate by Mayor Nancy R. Rossi, will read poems from his upcoming books, “Westies” and “Don’t Make Me Laugh.”

The free event, open to the public, will include light refreshments and an open microphone after the reading.

See the Flyer.

As the city’s first official poet, Fusco will appear at readings and conduct workshops as an advocate for the reading and writing of poetry.

He has written four books of poetry, including “Java Scripture,” featuring poems about his youth, Savin Rock and Allingtown. His poetry has won many awards, including the Sunken Garden Poetry Prize.

A graduate of West Haven High School, Fusco has a master’s degree in creative writing from Southern Connecticut State University and is co-president of the Connecticut Poetry Society.


Meet city’s Audubon WildLife Guards

WEST HAVEN, July 26, 2019 — Starting in 2017, a group of eight West Haven High School students has helped monitor and protect the beach-nesting birds at the Sandy Point Beach & Bird Sanctuary.

Thanks to a grant from Audubon Connecticut, students in the paid seven-week program record the nesting and survival of piping plovers, American oystercatchers, least terns and common terns, keeping track of other birds species along the way.

Corrie Folsom-O’Keefe, program coordinator of the Audubon “Important Bird Area,” manages the Audubon WildLife Guards Program, and Genevieve Nuttall is the Audubon staff member assigned to the Sandy Point effort.

This year, under the leadership of Alfred Green and Victor Sieh, a West Haven High graduate and former WildLife Guard, the crew includes two graduating seniors, Daniela Morales and Mathew Wahl; two seniors, Noah Anderson and Samiyah Sutherland; and four juniors. Three of the juniors — Kyle Burt, James Weber and Anthony Pacheco — owe their participation to classmate Rianne Mustafa, who participated in the program last year thanks to the encouragement of a friend.

The guards not only keep track of nesting sites, they also help make information at Sandy Point more accessible to visitors. Although the students were aware of the area before working with Audubon, all agree the job has given them a new appreciation for birdlife and West Haven’s connection to one of its most valuable resources.

Be sure to follow their weekly reports at Sandy Point Beach & Bird Sanctuary.

Learn more about the WildLife Guards Program at Wildlife Guards and on Facebook.

Audubon I
Audubon II

Audubon Connecticut WildLife Guards educate the public about the beach-nesting birds at the Sandy Point Beach & Bird Sanctuary. The group of West Haven High School students helps monitor and protect the “Important Bird Area” as part of the WildLife Guards Program, a paid seven-week program made possible by an Audubon grant. (Contributed Photos)


Applications available for community development programs

WEST HAVEN, July 26, 2019 — The Community Development Administration is accepting applications for a down payment assistance program for first-time homebuyers.

To qualify for the forgivable loan program, applicants must buy a single-family house or condominium in West Haven and live in the home for five years. The loan is then abated at a rate of 20% annually and forgiven after the fifth year.

Eligibility for assistance is based on the income and number of members of an applicant’s household, according to guidelines set by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Applicants must provide 3% of the purchase price from their own funds. CDA will then match $2 for every dollar up to $7,500.

Also, CDA is accepting applications for rehabilitation projects for owner-occupied single-family homes and owner-occupied multifamily homes.

Funds for CDA-approved rehab projects can be used to correct code violations or make structural improvements in homes. Cosmetic work does not qualify.

Eligibility for assistance is based on HUD income limits.

Applications for the programs are available by contacting CDA administrative assistant Rosa Richardson at 203-937-3550 or Anyone with questions can call the same number.

Driver safety course offered in West Haven

Driver safety course offered Aug. 28

WEST HAVEN, July 25, 2019 — The Allingtown/West Haven Senior Center will offer an AARP Driver Safety Program from noon-4 p.m. Aug. 28 at the Johnson Community Center, 201 Noble St.

The program is designed to help sharpen driving skills, develop strategies to adjust to age-related vision changes, develop hearing and reaction times, and learn about the effects of medication on driving performance.

Participants must complete the class to receive a certification for insurance purposes.

The fee is $15 for AARP members and $20 for nonmembers, payable to AARP.

To register, call the senior center at 203-937-3507.

Farmers market

Farmers market open Thursdays, Saturdays on West Haven Green

WEST HAVEN, July 11, 2019 — The Tony Inzero Farmers Market is open for its 20th season on the Green.

Through Oct. 26, the market at Main Street and Campbell Avenue features state farmers selling homegrown fruits and vegetables from 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Thursdays and 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturdays.

It also includes crafters selling their wares.

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