The Day – Third skyscraper collapses on Crystal Avenue in New London

New London – There was no ceremony or speech early Monday morning to mark a key moment in the ongoing demolition of the Thames River Apartments.

Stamford Wrecking Co. crews used an excavator to topple Building C, the last of three nine-story apartment buildings that have housed countless families since 1967.

Demolition work on the former 124-unit apartment complex for low-income families began on February 9 and is expected to take several more weeks. The entire Crystal Avenue site is now covered in debris, a mixture of concrete and metal. Once cleared, the City intends to find a fiscal entity and a use better suited to the commercial industrial zone.

“It’s part of our past,” city council president Efrain Dominguez, who has lived with his family in the apartment complex for 19 years, said Monday.

While the apartment complex has had its share of problems over the years, Dominguez said the people who live there will remember it as their home.

“It was a community in itself. I enjoyed my time there,” Dominguez said.

But although he has fond memories of playing ball on the field or at the nearby Fulton Park playground, Dominguez said he couldn’t forget the location – “a residential area under a bridge next to a dump”.

Mayor Michael Passero called the complex’s construction an example of a failure of government policy in an era of urban renewal.

Passero began working with the New London Housing Authority Board of Commissioners in 2016 to start the process of finding new homes for the families who lived there. Complaints about lack of maintenance and hot water, as well as the presence of mold, cockroaches and bed bugs had reached a crescendo by the time the US Department of Housing and Urban Development granted the demolition request. from the Housing Authority and issued vouchers for families to move.

The last families moved in 2018.

Passero credits the work of former Housing Authority Board Chair Betsy Gibson and the hard work of Crystal Avenue tenants who championed the cause of all residents. Passero said the demolition was long overdue.

“When I got involved and started working with HUD to relocate people, it seemed to me that HUD was already very frustrated with the city of New London. they weren’t supporting that kind of development anymore,” Passero said. “The project we started in 2016 should have been started a decade earlier.”

The idea of ​​demolishing the skyscrapers was first mooted by city officials in the 1990s. A request for proposals for the property was issued in 2001, and in 2002 tenants of Thames River Apartment asked the city to raze the complex. One idea at the time was to pursue HUD funding to build a series of single-family homes in Bates Woods Park.

In 2006, local solicitor Robert Reardon brought a class action lawsuit against the city and the Housing Authority. In 2014, Reardon won a court order requiring the New London Housing Authority to rehabilitate the complex or relocate the people. Mobile housing vouchers have been secured for residents after an unsuccessful attempt to build a more modern replacement housing complex on the site of the former Edgerton School near Colman Street.

Cleanup of the Crystal Avenue property is expected to be completed in May.

g.smith@theday.com

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