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Let the demolition begin. High-rises must go.

The sooner the former Thames River Apartments on Crystal Avenue in New London are razed the better.

That is why the decision by the New London City Council to start the process of demolishing the high-rise structures is the right one, even as it continues to work with the administration of Mayor Michael Passero to figure out how to fully pay for the cost.

New London has accepted a proposal from Stamford Wrecking to carry out the project for $3.5 million. That may sound like a lot of money to remove buildings, but it should not be surprising. There is asbestos to be dealt with, PCB contamination to address, and the overall magnitude of the job to take into consideration.

The first phase involves dealing with all that contamination before the demolition job can take place. The city will use resources from a $2 million Department of Economic and Community Development grant program intended to help communities clean up contaminated sites to make way for their redevelopment.

Located not far from State Pier, which is about to undergo a $235 million transformation, and in an industrial setting, the 12-acre property was rezoned for commercial or industrial development after the apartments were closed for good in 2018.

Serious consideration should be given to tapping the $21.8 million in federal COVID-19 relief funds to help pay for finishing the job and getting the parcel developed. The right project there would create jobs and generate property tax dollars for the city, both in keeping in line with recovering from the economic damage caused by the pandemic.

Construction of the high-rise apartments was a well-intentioned but ultimately failed experiment. Poor people need housing that provides the opportunity to progress to a better life. But the approach of warehousing large groups of people facing the same economic and social struggles proved to be a big mistake.

Drug dealing and other criminal activity made life difficult for the vast majority of tenants who only wanted a place to live. Safely raising children, and keeping them from the influence of those criminal elements, made for a stressful existence for families.

And as the infrastructure began to breakdown, the money was never there to adequately repair it, adding to the collective misery.

When the high-rises finally closed, families and individuals were able to locate to apartments of their choosing using Section 8 vouchers.

Reuse of these buildings, as some have suggested, is impractical in that location. Better to take them down.

 

The Day editorial board meets regularly with political, business and community leaders and convenes weekly to formulate editorial viewpoints. It is composed of President and Publisher Tim Dwyer, Editorial Page Editor Paul Choiniere, Managing Editor Izaskun E. Larrañeta, staff writer Erica Moser and retired deputy managing editor Lisa McGinley. However, only the publisher and editorial page editor are responsible for developing the editorial opinions. The board operates independently from the Day newsroom.

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