A homeless shelter on Arch St. was recently denied by the Common Council, but a new one on West Main St. is being planned by Mayor Tim O’Brien according to sources.
Calvary Christian Center on 265 West Main St., formerly the Jewish Temple B’Nai Israel, plans to have a shelter overflow area in its church.
Sources say the money, of over $400,000, have not yet been approved from the Common Council and may come from HUD funds, bonding or an unknown source.
Yet funds seem to be a definite, as officials at the church did confirm renovations have already begun. Pastor Bob Santeusanio did not return calls.
But, whether this project can even be done legally, is questionable to many.
“This is absolutely unconstitutional,” said former Alderman Lou Salvio, who is running again this year for office. “It is a violation of the principle of separation of church and state.”
“If the rumors are true and the city is spending money and doing this work – this is very disturbing to me,” said Alderman Jamie Giantonio. “As a council member we should not hear through the rumor mill about hundreds of thousands of dollars being spent on a project. Especially, a project where I would have to question the legality of using state or federal funds in this manner.”
Peter Delfino, who owns Mr. Joseph’s Hair Salon, across the street from the building, said he is very upset by this turn of events.
“I was expecting a letter from zoning and now I find out everything was already approved. How can they do this?,” said Delfino. “Why would you put this on West Main St. This is the heart of New Britain. There are so many empty lots in New Britain. Don’t do it on West Main St. What do we have left in New Britain?”
Delfino said he bought the Mr. Joseph’s property at top dollar and has spent over $500,000 on it. Since then he bought two other properties on that corner to clean up the area.
“I have close to $1 million tied up to clean this corner,” Delfino said.
Delfino said he tried to meet with O’Brien several times but O’Brien “blew off the meetings.”
Dunkin Donuts, a pizza place, a Chinese Restaurant wanted that corner space. Delfino said “no” because he wanted to see a professional building there instead, in order to help the City.
Delfino wants to see his plans move forward, but is unsure if this will negatively affect it.
“I’m planning to build there. Doctors, lawyers eventually will go up there, but how can I do this with a homeless shelter across the street?,” said Delfino. “I have the best corner for medical. It’s totally not fair. We don’t have valuable spots left in New Britain and this guy is trying to ruin it. I’m for a shelter, but not in the heart of West Main Street. There are plenty of empty buildings.”
The New Britain City Journal has been issued a gag order by Mayor O’Brien and could not get additional comment.