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Sunday, December 30, 2012

Telegraph series profiled many people who live in the Bronstein Apartments, which face possible demolition

Ten months ago, Mayor Donnalee Lozeau sat down with The Telegraph’s editorial board and discussed her vision for the future of Nashua – her “perfect world.”

It included a completed Broad Street Parkway, increased business growth, a strong education system and hopefully a top-notch performing arts center. ...

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Ten months ago, Mayor Donnalee Lozeau sat down with The Telegraph’s editorial board and discussed her vision for the future of Nashua – her “perfect world.”

It included a completed Broad Street Parkway, increased business growth, a strong education system and hopefully a top-notch performing arts center.

However, her vision did not include one specific downtown address that 48 families call home – The Bronstein Apartments, which sit along Central, Myrtle and Pine streets. As part of creating a new gateway to the city with cars entering the downtown from the new Broad Street Parkway, she envisioned the low-income housing complex gone.

She talked about the stigma of living in the “projects” and said many of the people living there would be better off if they had homes in different parts of the city that weren’t identified by income. They eventually would be relocated, she said.

However, all of that was news to the people who called Bronstein home.

Many of the residents were worried about what the news meant for them and their families. When would they leave? How much time would they be given? What were the next steps in the process?

It didn’t take long for Granite State Organizing Project to get involved and demand answers to those questions.

For her part, Lozeau said she spoke out of turn.

The Telegraph, in several editorials, endorsed exploring the demolition of Bronstein and relocation of the residents, but called for an open dialogue and insisted that residents remain informed.

Later in the year, The Telegraph launched a six day series that profiled many of the people who lived at Bronstein and examined the process of demolishing a pubic housing complex.

Most of the residents said they welcomed a chance to move away from Bronstein, their only worry was for support as they were relocated.

The September series ended with a public forum where Lozeau and officials at the Nashua Housing Authority pledged to keep the residents informed.

They said residents would be actively involved with the plans to demolish Bronstein and their voices would be included

Still, a timetable for the future was hard to come by and residents were urged to wait.

When pressed, Housing Authority officials said they hoped to submit an application to HUD to demolish Bronstein in 2012, and proceed with relocating families in 2013.

Now, at the end of the year, that timeline proved a little too quick.

The housing authority has yet to meet with any of the residents, and it has not submitted a draft application to HUD.

But that hasn’t stopped the conversations about Bronstein, or the city’s attempt to keep it behind closed doors.

In October, just one month after The Telegraph’s public forum, the Board of Aldermen, at Lozeau’s request, went into non-public session to talk about the Broad Street Parkway, and Lozeau’s vision for Bronstein came up again.

Several of the aldermen wanted the discussion to be held openly but they were outnumbered in the vote to go into non-public session. Eventually, 49 days later, the minutes were released.

“As we know, I’ve gotten into lots of trouble for talking about the perfect world and public health being on the Bronstein lot,” Lozeau said during the meeting, according to the minutes.

All along, many of the residents said they didn’t trust the pledges for openness

“Because so much attention was put on it, I’m sure housing is going to keep a very tight lid on what is said,” mother of two Cynthia Reese said at the end of the year. “All I can do is keep paying the rent and expect I’ll know in the next couple months.”

As 2012 comes to a close, life continues at Bronstein and conversations will continue about the future of the complex in 2013.

Jonathan Van Fleet can be reached at 594-6465 or jvanfleet@nashua
telegraph.com. Also, follow Van Fleet on Twitter (Telegraph_JonVF).