City Notes
JR's Place

JR’s Place celebrates downtown opening

WEST HAVEN, Aug. 8, 2019 — Mayor Nancy R. Rossi cuts the ceremonial ribbon Thursday with JR’s Place owner Russell Rivera, center, to celebrate the restaurant’s grand opening at 555 Campbell Ave., formerly The Spot Bar and Grill.

Also marking the event are, from left, Rivera’s girlfriend, Tierra Pollock; JR’s Place bartender Brenda Fronte; Rossi’s executive assistant, Lou Esposito; and JR’s Place chef Alberto Baez.

Open seven days a week, the new downtown “bar, patio and grill” serves lunch and dinner and specializes in burgers, salads, bone-in and boneless wings, and hot and cold sandwiches.

Along with refreshing cocktails, JR’s Place offers domestic and imported beers, including India pale ales, and daily happy hour specials from 3-7 p.m.

(City Photo/Michael P. Walsh)

West Haven sets lineup for Summer Concert Series

The Nu Groove plays concert series tonight

WEST HAVEN, Aug. 8, 2019 — The West Haven Summer Concert Series continues on the Green at 7 tonight 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
‘Christmas in July’ toy drive extended

‘Christmas in July’ toy drive ends Friday

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)

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


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

WEST HAVEN, Aug. 7, 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.

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)

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

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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