Rules Eliminate Historical Society

The “Remember the Strand” battle cry has once again come to New Britain.

New Britain Historical Society President Amy Kirby said the City announced new rules this week for those interested in purchasing the Hatch Building that purposely eliminates the society from acquiring the building.

In a Herald article it reads that, “Any prospective developer must demonstrate they can secure financing of $100,000. The minimum purchase price is $40,000.”

Kirby said, the City was originally asking $20,000 and she was struggling to raise that amount and $40,000 is nearly impossible.

“This was done as a deliberate, malicious attack against me,” Kirby said.

The new rules also state that “A committee comprised of representatives from the Corporation Counsel’s office, Assessor’s Office and others will analyze the applications and make a recommendation to the mayor and Common Council.”

“So this means that it may never even go to the council. Council members who are in favor will never even have a chance to say that,” said Kirby. “Basically this is an ungoverned committee that does not have to answer to anyone. This is completely ludicrous. It was done solely to exclude us. They know this committee is never going to approve of us.”

The City has also stated in the application process that “No member of the governing body of the City, nor its designees or agents, and no other public official paid or unpaid, who exercises any functions or responsibilities with respect to this program during the individual’s tenure or for one (1) year thereafter, shall have any personal or financial interest, direct or indirect, in any contract or subcontract, or the proceeds thereof, for work to be performed in connection with the program.”

Kirby said, there are several members of her committee who work for the City that planned on making large donations in order to help her secure funding. The wording of this now prohibits her from receiving any necessary funding from them.

Diverse Realty and The Good Samaritan Church have both expressed an interest in the building. The church blessed the building several weeks ago.

“They have grabbed me as hard as they can grab me. Is there anything else they can do to make sure I cannot move forward?,” said Kirby, who first told the mayor she wanted to purchase this building back in April 2012. “He never really listened. I went to him before Diverse Realty or the church was interested in the building. He didn’t take me very seriously.”

In the middle of July, Kirby was told by a member of her committee that she had to bring O’Brien’s Chief of Staff Rosemary Klotz onto her fundraising committee.

“It was the worst six weeks of my life. She ripped my boards apart,” said Kirby. “She was demanding all these things that she had no purpose in demanding.”

Kirby said two of her own board members could not support her because Klotz could “manhandle” them because they were vulnerable.

Kirby said she had a fundraiser at the Wesoly Sloper House that was forced upon her by the Mayor’s Office and it appeared to be for Democrats only. Kirby had invited Republican Mayoral Candidate Erin Stewart. Klotz told her to “un-invite Stewart”.

Kirby refused.

“I felt like I was made to be looking like a one-sided political agent and the historical society should under no circumstances be political,” said Kirby. “All the people they invited were Democrats. I did not control the invitations, but it was under my name and it was forced upon me. Klotz was adamant as to what I had to do.”

Kirby said she has been told by several people (who she would not name) that the new rules were put in place in retribution for inviting Stewart to the fundraiser.

“I believe the Mayor put her up to this. She was tasked with getting me under control,” said Kirby. “Every City in this state has a historical society. I don’t understand. This idea is a no-brainer.”

Various other Cities such as Hartford, Waterbury and Berlin have historical societies.

“My new battle cry is ‘Remember the Strand’,” said Kirby. “That is the battle cry when you want preservation in New Britain as people fought tooth and nail to keep that theater.”

In the 1970s most of New Britain’s theaters were demolished. One of the most popular was The Strand.

The Common Council approved last week that there would be a committee and an application process for acquiring the Hatch building, but details were not released at that time.

“That was a sham,” said Kirby. “I don’t think anyone understood what they were actually going to say.”

Councilman Willie Pabon stood up at that meeting and questioned why a whole new process was being done after it was apparent the historical society wanted the property and the process had begun. Aldermen Suzanne Bielinski and Rhasheen Brown also spoke in favor of the historical society.

“They (mayor’s office) are heading it off before it gets to them (council),” said Kirby.

From the beginning Kirby said the entire process was sketchy.

“I was told months ago by Rosemary (Klotz) that if this went through I would have to say this was the Mayor’s idea because that is how things are done in that office,” said Kirby. “They are so nasty and it breaks my heart. I never had a chance at getting that building.”

Kirby said despite this setback, she will not go away.

“It’s just sad that they couldn’t have given us that lot,” said Kirby. “It’s not right.”

City Hall was unavailable for comment as there is a gag order on the New Britain City Journal.

This article originally appeared in the New Britain City Journal.