And I mean that in the most utterly sarcastic manner possible. The City of West Haven
has a reputation alright, a reputation that I believe can be summed up in one single word. But the word thus far eludes me. "Shitty?" No, definitely not. That's not completely accurate. "Crime-infested," ah well there's the occasional street robbery, the less occasional shooting, but nothing to constitute an infestation. "Dangerous?" No, not that either. "Trashy?" We're getting a little closer now, but that might be a little over the top. No, the word, it's coming to me... Let me think. Hmmmm. Got it!
Yes, seedy it is, but credit where credit's due, I'll go out on a limb and give it merely, slightly seedy.
West Haven, New Haven's slightly seedier southwestern neighbor is not quaint, or cultured, or anything of the sort. But driving today down the main thoroughfare that bisects the down town area, emptying out onto Captain Thomas Blvd., and the beach, I saw something. Amongst the pawn shops, dive bars, and check cashing spots that dot Washington Avenue, I noticed it out of the corner of my eye, almost missing it, but as my car rolled to a stop at a red light, I got a good look. It was a visual symptom, the initial symptom, in fact, of gentrification. It was, in fact, a coffee shop. The Coffee Boutique, to be specific, with a big ole' grand opening sign in the window. And it hit me, West Haven is the next spot to blow up, to become up and coming. For there is but limited space within the already puny political boundaries of New Haven. And the city, Connecticut's cultural capital, boasting Yale University, high end restaurants, museums, and art galleries, has seen rents sky rocket in recent years, months even. West Haven, Connecticut's Atlantic City minus the casinos, will for better or for worse, mark my words, be the next victim of gentrification's inevitable grip.
And so be it. For I, for one, don't believe it to always necessarily connotate negativity. Gentrification can be done correctly, it just requires a balance, a delicate one at that. A balance between coffee shops and bodegas, yoga and open air drug sales, dog parks and empty lots. But as I continued down Washington Ave, and to the beach, like I do so happily on my off days this summer, I was quickly reminded that the scale is currently favoring the latter. I'm reminded that West Haven is a microcosm of the entire Nutmeg State. It is a place of extremes. See I don't mind paying taxes. I certainly don't like to, you know, see over a quarter of my hard earned money go right to Uncle Sam. But I do respect it. Taxes pay for what we do, what we use, what we need. Stuff that everyone benefits from, yet no one would voluntarily pay for without the coercive nature of the tax system itself. The fact that one is forced to pay taxes is the only way it could work. People are, by nature, cheap, lazy, and greedy. And so state income tax, property tax, even car tax (yeah, we actually have that here) I don't mind paying, just as long as I, we, get something in return. You know, like a beach that isn't covered in shards of broken beer bottles, and plastic bags floating in the water that I can just picture strangling some poor unsuspecting seal. But this is what the beach looked like today, every day, for that matter...
How does West Haven, with their insanely high tax mill rate, that supposedly pays for services like a large police force, with a BEACH PATROL UNIT at that, justify this? Where does the money go? It is inexcusable.
And so I say, get your shit together, West Haven, either now, or when you're forced to, when the artists come-a-buyin'!