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Fences Make Bad Neighbors in Hamden, Connecticut

The ugly story of the fence between a public housing community called New Haven and the nearby "middle class" community of Hamden, Connecticut will soon be over, but not because Hamden suddenly gained enlightenment.
July 13, 2014, 5am PDT | James Brasuell | @CasualBrasuell
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"[Dillard Bennett's] family moved to New Haven from Georgia in 1959, seeking an escape from segregated buses and racial violence. Instead, they found what Mr. Bennett, who is black, called a signal that 'hatred for black folks' endures: 1,500 feet of thickly woven metal, enclosing a cluster of public housing projects on three sides," reports Benjamin Mueller.

Beyond it's literal presence, the fence also has a strong symbolic effect as a border between two worlds. "Built by Hamden in the 1950s to keep crime out of an aspiring middle-class neighborhood, the fence choked off access to jobs for public housing residents and obstructed emergency responders. Anger festered in the projects, and unemployment rates surpassed 75 percent. By 1990, New Haven’s violent crime rate nearly tripled the national average. Rocks sometimes flew over the fence, once battering a Hamden school bus."

But that's about to change, because recently "excavators began tearing down parts of the fence to make way for three roads that will eventually connect the public housing projects to Hamden — the first breach in this border in half a century. The first road is expected to poke through by September."

Unfortunately, the fence is not coming down out of the goodness of Hamden hearts. Rather, the Department of Housing and Urban Development discovered, after an investigation onto discriminatory housing practices, that the fence is actually on New Haven property, which is allowing the fence to come down despite the passionate protests of Hamden's residents.

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Published on Friday, July 11, 2014 in New York Times
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