Income Inequality: the Hartford vs. West Hartford Divide

What comes to mind when you compare Hartford and West Hartford?

Hartford is typically viewed as dirty, crime-ridden, and full of poverty. In contrast, West Hartford is usually seen as beautiful, clean, well-off, and safe. The disparity between Hartford and West Hartford is one many have taken notice of.

Last semester, Shanelle Morris, a recent Trinity graduate, presented on the difference in cafeteria foods for Hartford and West Hartford for the Moylan Mentorship Program. The fifth grade mentees took notice quickly that Hartford had one supermarket and more public schools, while West Hartford, a smaller town, has a variety of supermarkets and fewer public schools. I distinctly remember one of my mentees stating that the reason for this was that West Hartford “had more money, so that’s why they can have more and better things than Hartford.” According to city data, the population of Hartford and West Hartford is approximately 125,000 and 63,000 respectively. Thus, it was no surprise for another mentee to say, “If Hartford has more people than West Hartford, then why does West Hartford have more food markets? That’s not fair!” Access to fresh, healthy food is just one of the many issues Hartford and its public schools face.

I was stunned the first time I visited West Hartford. The county was clean, with no random pieces of trash. The air smelled fresh; there were a variety of clothing and grocery stores, and many types of restaurants. On my way back to Trinity College, I noticed the shift quickly, almost as if there was a barrier splitting both cities. Henry Chavez, a junior at Trinity, expressed that Hartford itself “has a lack of infrastructure. Almost every apartment building and house is falling apart, there are no bike lanes on streets, no street crosswalks, and no trash bins.” In West Hartford there are both trash and recycling bins at every street corner, accessible sidewalks, bike lanes, smooth roads, and beautifully constructed apartment buildings.

In a Connecticut NBC article, NBC reporter Jamie Ratliff, stated that currently Hartford is in a $32 million deficit, and by next year, “the deficit is projected to hit $48 million.” It gets worse: in the next few years, the deficit is projected to jump “to $63 million…and then $67 million.” In February of this year, Ratliff stated that Hartford paid “$5.5 million to finish the Yard Goats stadium,” which is a baseball stadium for the Hartford Yard Goats, a minor league team. While the mayor expressed that this investment was “certainly not the main cause of the problem,” the situation still raises eyebrows. Researching the prices of trash and recycling cans that would be suitable for the city, I discovered that if Hartford purchased 1,000 recycling and trash bins each, the total would be about $975K; this is about 18 percent of that $5.5 million that was used to develop the Yard Goats stadium.

It is clear that Hartford is not spending its money wisely. More funds need to go toward expanding accessibility toward healthy foods – for example, opening a Trader Joe’s that accepts food stamps. Additionally, the city needs to provide more trash and recycling bins to minimize the amount of litter, and establish crosswalk lights at every street to provide safer routes for residents. My recommendation is for Hartford to devote a large amount of its funds toward its schools and city infrastructure. Additionally, the city should partner up with West Hartford, and determine the steps that the county is taking to drive its high quality infrastructure.

By: Juliana Perez ’17

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