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Waste Site Cleanup & Reuse in New England

“r” Kids Family Center

Success in EPA Brownfields Assessment Grant Program
New Haven, CT
(July 14, 2003)

Ribbon cutting at grand opening ceremony of  "r" Kids Family Center. Click for a larger image.

Ribbon cutting at grand opening ceremony of "r" Kids Family Center.

Photo of plaque at "r" Kids Family Center. Click for a larger image.

Photo of plaque at "r" Kids Family Center.

Photo of "r" Kids Family Center. Click for a larger image.

Photo of "r" Kids Family Center.

The city of New Haven, Connecticut, utilized approximately $20,000 of its $267,000 Brownfields Assessment Grant received in 1996 and 1998 from EPA New England to conduct an environmental assessment and remedial planning activities on a brownfields property in New Haven. This brownfields site has become the home of the “r” Kids Family Center. The culmination of a seven-year effort to provide a home for the “r” Kids Family Center was celebrated on June 26, 2003 with a community ribbon cutting ceremony at its new 4,300 square foot facility at 45 Dixwell Avenue in New Haven, CT.

This neighborhood has traditionally been mixed use. Dating back to 1967, the former commercial site was home to Midtown Shoe Shine Parlor. Prior to that establishment, Everybody’s Food Market was located on the half-acre property, dating back to 1948. The surrounding properties have hosted a variety of commercial, residential and retail establishments. Junior’s Midnight Auto Body has been located to the west of the property (since 1984). On the south side was another auto body repair facility that operated there between 1925 and 1980. A gasoline station has also been located southwest of the brownfields site since at least 1923.

The city of New Haven is one of the poorest cities in the country, in which the needs of the children are not always met. According to the US 2000 Census, the population of New Haven is 123,626 people, with a median household income of $29,604, compared to the state of Connecticut median household income of $53,935. About 36% of the city’s residents are African-American and 21% Hispanic or Latino, according to the US 2000 Census. The latest Labor Force Data report from CT Department of Labor for April 2003, indicated that the unemployment rate in the city is 6.5% compare to 5.2% statewide (Connecticut Labor Force Data for Labor Market Areas & Towns report for April, 2003.) The 2000 Census reports that 24.4% of the individuals living in New Haven have incomes below the poverty level. (www.census.gov Click icon for EPA disclaimer.)

According to the US 2000 Census, Tract 1416, in which “r” Kids Family Center is located, has a population of 5,011 people. About 73.7% of this tract’s residents are African-Americans and 12.3% are Hispanics or Latinos. The percentage of individual families living below the poverty level in this census tract is comparable to the city of New Haven at 24.8%. (www.census.gov Click icon for EPA disclaimer.)

“r” Kids Family Center was established in 1996 as a result of a grassroots effort to identify the gaps in services within New Haven for substance abusing women and their children seeking to be reunified. Founded by Sergio and Randi Rubin Rodriguez, foster and adoptive parents, the non-profit agency provides support services for foster and adoptive families and their children as well as for mothers, fathers and their children who are referred by the CT Department of Children and Family Services. Randi Rubin Rodriguez quotes from Midrash (Midrash is the Book of Interpretations of the Bible by Jewish Scholars over hundreds of years), “With each child, the world begins anew,” in explaining their motivation for building the family center. Midrash’s quote sums up the very essence of the work that the “r” Kids Family Center does to provide every child a loving and permanent home. “r” Kids, Inc. provides a safe, nurturing, and healthy environment with accessible support services for the families it serves. It operates six days a week with five full-time staff and nine part-time staff members and serves up to 120 families and children annually. In addition to facilitating parent/child visitation and access to conventional support services, “r” Kids, Inc. features such programs as support groups, parenting classes, and children’s play groups. Numerous programs and support groups are provided for adoptive families and their children, including a transracial adoption group, a summer reading series for adoptive families and an adult adoptees reading group. “r” Kids, Inc. receives most of its operating funds through the federal Adoption and Safe Family Act (ASFA) (passed in 1997). The state of Connecticut Department of Children and Families awards these monies from this federal act and awards “r” Kids, Inc. with a contract in the amount of $342,000 either yearly or once every two years (starting in October 2003, the amount will increase to $392,000). “r” Kids, Inc. also receives $10,000 to $50,000 (depending on the year) from HUD Community Development Block Grant funding from the city of New Haven and also receives small private foundation grants and donations from private individuals.

After receiving the EPA Brownfields Assessment Grant, the city of New Haven selected a private contractor, Catalyst Environmental Consulting, Inc. of Simsbury, CT, to conduct the environmental assessment for the project. Between 1999 and 2000, the contractor completed the environmental assessment and found a 1,000-gallon (mixture of heating oil and water) underground storage tank and about 200 tons of TPH contaminated soil. Kropp Environmental Contractors, Inc. of Lebanon, CT, was chosen by the city to remediate the property. The contractor removed the underground storage tank and TPH contaminated soil in December 2000 and completed the cleanup in early 2001. Once the cleanup was completed, the redevelopment contractor, Encon Construction Company in Branford, CT, began its work in 2002 and completed the project about a year later, in the early summer of 2003.

The city of New Haven donated the property to “r” Kids Family Center, and the Connecticut Department of Social Services provided two grants totaling $775,000 for building construction and site development. Randi Rubin Rodriquez explains how EPA New England and the Brownfields Assessment Grant was instrumental in the success of this project when she says, “The reality is I don't know if I could have raised monies at that stage of our non-operational corporation to do environmental remediation. We are eternally grateful to EPA because it was the only way we could get off the drawing board and out of the ground!”

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