Police called to East Hartford rooming house 2,300 times in 5 years – CT Insider

EAST HARTFORD Mayor Mike Walsh labeled a crime-ridden, pest-infested rooming house an abomination and called on the town council to buy the building and strip it to the studs for renovation.

The owner of Church Corners Inn at 860 Main St. has agreed to sell the property to the town, Walsh said. The council at its meeting last week referred a proposal to buy the 24,820-square-foot building to its real estate and acquisition committee.

Police have been called to the address 2,300 times in the past five years on cases ranging from murder to petty theft, the mayor said.

By controlling the property, I can guarantee immediate calm on Main Street, a position I cannot guarantee if the property owner sells to another buyer, Walsh said.

The mayor said he would work with either the state Department of Veterans Affairs or the Department of Housing, using a combination of state money and bank financing to turn this Main Street abomination into 20 to 25 units of supportive housing for veterans, or more likely, housing that is appropriate for the area.

The property is appraised at about $1.3 million. A representative of the owner, 860 Main LLC, could not be reached for comment.

Built in 1913, the four-story building has 53 rooms and 6,000 square feet of commercial space on the ground floor. Town development Director Eileen Buckheit said East Hartford would partner with a private developer or nonprofit organization to create new one-bedroom units.

Church Corners is the gateway to our downtown, Walsh said, and our community deserves a better opportunity for a safe, welcoming, vibrant and transformed downtown that will serve current and future generations to come.

Public health investigations have uncovered everything from indoor smoking violations to unsanitary living conditions requiring intervention and enforcement.

Bathrooms by room are non-existent, Walsh said, so the health department takes reports of residents defecating in buckets because they are not in close proximity to the bathroom when needed.

The many challenges and unfortunate circumstances reported by residents to the health department have been characterized by one of our local sanitarians as hell on earth, he said.

Angel Rivera, who has lived at Church Corners for about eight months, said mice and bed bugs infest the building. A shared kitchen that he uses has a stove with only one working burner, Rivera said. He said he pays $650 a month in rent.

A woman who did not want to be identified said she lived at Church Corners for about 1 1/2 years and initially paid $575 a month for just a room, then $640 for a room and a bath. She echoed Riveras statements about pests and sanitary conditions.

Bulldoze it to the ground and start from square one, she said.

The mayor also said safe egress is not possible from some units and stairwells are not fully enclosed, allowing a fire to spread quickly. In the last year alone, 27 fire calls and 57 emergency medical calls have been made from the address, he said. Also, aggressive panhandling by some residents dampen any desire to shop in downtown, Walsh said. Residents do not feel safe walking by the place, he said.

While the powers of local government are far reaching, Walsh said, I can neither fine this business into compliance nor out of existence.

Some of the more well-publicized crimes at the inn included an armed standoff last year in which a woman was held against her will and a man was shot in the arm. In 2004, rooming house resident Robert Godfrey was found guilty of killing his upstairs neighbor, Diane Johnson, and sentenced to 60 years in prison. Police said bloody footprints led from Johnsons room to Godfreys.

In 2002, a man and woman with a history of domestic violence were both found dead in the rooming house. Police at the time said they suspected suicide in both deaths. Police also have been called to shootings, stabbings and other assaults inside and outside the building, which has hosted a bar on the ground floor, currently the Beso Lounge and Restaurant. Police department spokesperson Officer Marc Caruso said police continue to be called often to the building.

Why does government have to get involved? Walsh said. Because the private sector has failed us, so we use the levers of government to be bold to change the trajectory of both Main Street and East Hartford.

Jesse.Leavenworth@hearstmediact.com

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Police called to East Hartford rooming house 2,300 times in 5 years - CT Insider

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