Gomes, Newton, Ayala Take Note–The East End’s Frustration

In a word, frustration may sum up the feeling of East End residents. Just like most of the rest of the city, they’re voting less, involved less and wondering what the future brings. No bank, no pharmacy, no supermarket. Does anyone care? The East End will be an important battleground for votes in an expected Aug. 14 primary for State Senate between incumbent Ed Gomes and challengers Ernie Newton and State Rep. Andres Ayala. Newton lives in the neighborhood, Ayala wants to represent it and Gomes has been the State Senator for the past seven years. How they communicate directly with voters and how they interact with Mayor Bill Finch to find solutions could decide the winner of the primary. CT Post columnist Keila Torres captures the malaise in the neighborhood in her latest:

East Enders understand people’s anxiety.

They know how pitiful their Bridgeport neighborhood looks traveling down Stratford Avenue, the heart of the East End. No one bothers to turn on any side streets and see the well-kept single-family owner-occupied homes. No one turns on the side streets and sees the Ralphola Taylor Community Center or the neighborhood’s three middle schools and playgrounds.

They see the corner stores, scattered take-out eateries, bars and empty storefronts on Stratford Avenue. And immediately they turn around.

Madd Brotha #1, who was waiting to get a haircut at Kingdom Cutters Barber Shop on Stratford Avenue Tuesday, swears that he has seen people get off at Interstate 95’s exit 29 ramp on Seaview Avenue, travel a few blocks up Stratford Avenue and realize they are not in Stratford, but Bridgeport. Good thing for them there are two Interstate 95 on-ramps, one northbound and the other southbound, right at the edge of the neighborhood for easy access out. He says they choose the easy access out-ramp.

Residents here say why shouldn’t they? No new businesses are choosing to come to the East End. Why should they? The only interested business is the Bridgeport & Port Jefferson Ferry Co., which wants to move its downtown operations to a waterfront parcel along Seaview Avenue.

“They’re thinking that’s what we need,” says Madd, disgust evident in his voice. He is mad with two d’s because his neighborhood is still just as neglected as when he was a kid.

Maybe more so. At least then there was a bank.

He says no one ever asks them what they need.

“They’re so scared they never come out here,” says Madd Brotha.

The pastor in a brown-checkered shirt tucked into a pair of beige slacks who has been listening to Madd disagrees.

“They’re not scared,” he says.

The pastor used to live in Bridgeport. Not anymore.

“I got out,” he says.

Standing a few feet away cutting a client’s hair, barber shop owner Neal McGee agrees that they’re not scared. He said they just have no reason to be here. “We don’t have anything in the East End.”

The group begins rattling off the things the East End lacks. A bank. A pharmacy. A supermarket. A full-service library.

“Wait,” McGee exclaims. “It just hit me. Why the heck am I the only barbershop on Stratford Avenue?”

“They’re creating an environment that is not able to produce anything,” says the pastor, 44. “If you can’t produce anything what are you gonna do? You turn on yourselves.”

He throws out the word plague.

McGee, who grew up on the East End, says the population is self-destructing. When was the last time there was new construction in the East End, he asks to no one in particular. “It ain’t like we don’t have space for it.”

A man, who was getting his salt-and-pepper afro trimmed, pipes up for the first time. “I’ve been in this part of town since 1960,” the 58-year-old says. “And boy has it changed. I’m glad I grew up when I did.”

What are the East End youth supposed to aspire to, the pastor asks. “If all you give me is stuff out of the bottom of the barrel, what can you really expect from me?”

Maybe the city is waiting for the neighborhood to destroy itself so it can start all over, instead of using eminent domain like it did when it moved people from the East Side to make way for the massive Steelepointe development, which hasn’t been developed yet.

Houses are burning down, leaving vacant lots. Young people are killing each other off.

The old-timer in the chair doesn’t understand. “The East End is a good part of Bridgeport,” he says. “There are no projects here. Only homeowners.”

There’s no one speaking up for the neighborhood, someone says.

None of the men ever remember meeting their City Council representatives, state representative or state senator.

They can’t even name them.

“If you’re going to be in a position of power at least do something for the East End,” McGee says. “Maybe I’ll run for office.”



  1. Good job by CT Post columnist Keila Torres in the way she captures the malaise in the East End.

    Not only does the East End lack a bank, a pharmacy, a supermarket, a full-service library, a gas station; this problem has been going for over 50 years. There are too many liquor stores, too many gangs roaming the streets, too many guns and of course the drug problem. The East End of Bridgeport has become a dumping ground for waste material.

    How can a district go over 50 years with NO development but come election time you find every mayor popping up in black churches during election time and then they never do ANYTHING to make any improvements. Let me be clearer, I am talking about those in the DEMOCRATIC PARTY in Bridgeport.

    1. Hey Ron, when I was a young punk I remember going into Leroy’s Newsroom and the Anvil Smoke Shop on Stratford Ave. Today I would need a tank!

      I’m still a punk!

  2. In New Haven there is a part of town known as Fair Haven, a true misnomer. That area is neither ‘fair’ nor is it a ‘haven.’ Quite the contrary. Thirty years ago it was a desperate slum. Still is by most standards. But the Mayor at the time was a true visionary. He gave out deep and generous tax breaks to midsized grocers like C Town and Adams. There are four currently in the ‘hood. The public library was open, most of all the New Haven Branches. Built impressive basketball courts all over the place and lighted some of them and kept them open ’til midnight. The large local churches showed free movies every Friday and Saturday night. He built a fully staffed health center in the worst of the neighborhood. DeStefano came in and built two state-of-the-art schools. The neighborhood is still a shithole for those who want to live in a shithole. But for those who want a better way to live, they have the things available we take for granted. I forgot the Mayor’s name who started all this. I doubt he ever served time for bilking his constituents or was best know for kissing the DTC Chair’s ass. That’s probably why I don’t know his name.

    The East Side could do the same. It will take a lot of persuasion by our elected leaders. Can you imagine Ernest T negotiating with a supermarket chain or Ayala convincing a hospital to put in a fully functional health center? One question for Gomes … where have you been for the past seven years?

  3. yahooy, this was published: February 04, 2003 in the New York Times. Richard C. Lee, the former mayor of New Haven whose urban renewal programs in the 1950s and 1960s earned national recognition and created a template for decades of future city revitalization projects, died on Sunday. He was 86.

    As mayor from 1954 to 1970, Mr. Lee, a Democrat, leveraged hundreds of millions of dollars from the state and federal governments to raze blighted city neighborhoods, feats documented in national magazines and newspapers.

    Under his leadership, a shopping center and a sports and music coliseum were built downtown, and a path was cleared for the construction of the Interstate highways that put his city at the crossroads of southern New England.

    “More than any American mayor in that era, he made the best possible use of the federal and state laws that were then available for rebuilding a center city and improving the lives of its people,” said Joel Cogen, executive director of the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities, an organization that Mr. Lee founded in 1966.

    “He had the vision to see that there were many things that the cities and towns could do better together than they could do separately.”

  4. Mayor Lee set a record as $588 per capita was spent on urban renewal in New Haven in the ’60s, but don’t forget, he destroyed a lot of communities. Bridgeport did its share of urban renewal recently, all over the City, the only problem was and is nothing was ever built where they evicted and destroyed our history. The East End can do a lot more little things. They’ve received a lot of grant money; I mean, come on, brick pavers, granite curbing, lamp posts? Don’t forget the Charles Smith fiasco. Start with planting some gardens and flowers why don’t ya? Start small. Create a community. DO! Just DO!

  5. The Torres piece was good and long overdue from someone. Anyone who knows the geography of the East End knows it is well deserving of development. That the East End has been overlooked time and time and time again can only be for two reasons: racism and corruption. I’d wager the prevailing issue is racism though most are too polite or timid to admit it. Unbelievable opportunities there and deep need.
    The problem all the Senate candidates have is all of them have been around for awhile and none of them have done anything to speak of that benefits the East End. That includes Newton. When he was in Hartford and in a leadership position nothing significant happened for the East End. You can debate whether a public official with a conviction for breach of the public trust should be allowed a second bite at the apple but the folks he seeks to represent should ask him what he would do differently this time so they get some benefit from his re-election. Not to beat up on Newton because Ayala and Gomes haven’t brought home the bacon either.

  6. The East End’s frustration and why? “GENTRIFICATION.” The East End is located right off of I-95, waterfront property, it has an island located on Long Island, vacant property, no development. The East End is just sitting there waiting for the land “speculators” to take it over.

    1. Finch and his real-estate cronies want to destroy the East End. And one of his cronies is East End preacher Ken Moales who makes a nice living off the community but what has he done to help the people of the East End do better? The answer is nothing because he likes the money he gets through his ties to Finch.

  7. *** Let’s stop dreaming about an urban area that’s had little positive change in 50 years. One step forward, two steps back, no? *** IT IS WHAT IT IS ***


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