By Ed Stannard, New Haven Register
NEW HAVEN >> It wasn’t that long ago that Cherry Ann Park was in such bad shape that the 70 children in the Newhallville neighborhood had to play in the street.
On Saturday, looking over raised vegetable gardens, playscapes and broad swaths of lawn, the residents of Cherry Ann Street, their neighbors and officials from the city and other organizations celebrated the renewal of the park. …
Cherry Ann Park is one of about 960 projects that Scott’s has chosen for its GRO1000 program, assisting the city with a $40,000 grant. But many who were on hand Saturday pointed to “Miss Connie” Vereen and “Mr. Mike” Rich as the leaders in the neighborhood who inspired others to clean up the park.
From the beginning it was a dump and we decided we wanted to create a park for the many children that live here on Cherry Ann Street,” Vereen said. “We have over 70 kids with no place to play. Thank God we have someplace for them to play now.
The neighborhood around the dead-end street wasn’t always so full of children. According to Vereen’s daughter, Barbara Vereen, a lot of the homes were filled with students from Southern Connecticut State University. But the college students gradually moved away and more families moved in.
“Before you know it, there were 30 kids on the street,” Barbara Vereen said.
The project also helped bring together residents from the Hamden and New Haven sides of the street, which runs along the town line.
“We eat together, we clean together, we play together,” Vereen said. “We are a neighborhood and we love.”
Mayor Toni Harp thanked the many organizations that had a hand in the project, including the U.S. Conference of Mayors, Yale University’s Urban Resources Initiative, Common Ground High School and Alder Delphine Clyburne, D-20, all of whom “transformed [the park] from an unsightly, abandoned parcel to this vibrant, all-natural ecological showcase. It’s a place where people can play and be safe,” Harp said.